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Sustainability Salaries Continue Upward Trend, Report Finds

Global economic uncertainty has not affected overall average salaries in the corporate responsibility and sustainability professions, which continue their rising trend, according to an industry report.

The CR and Sustainability Salary Survey, which polled 847 in-house employees and consultants, found the average salary in the UK rose to £56,360 ($87,674) in 2011, a 3.3 percent gain from 2010 and a nearly 14 percent increase from 2009. The survey was conducted by specialist recruitment firm Acre, management consultants Acona, communications agency Flag and Ethical Performance, a subscription-based monthly newsletter for senior executives.

In the survey as a whole, which included primarily respondents from the UK, the rest of Europe and North America, the proportion of sustainability professionals earning more than £80,000 rose from 17 percent in 2010 to 24 percent last year.

Europe has overtaken North America as the highest-paid region with average earnings of £69,000, with North American at £68,010, followed by the rest of the world at £66,900, and finally the UK.

CR professionals working in the natural resources and industrial sectors garnered the highest pay, overtaking previous pay leaders in the construction and property and technology sectors.

CR professionals in leisure, professional and support services, legal, retailing, construction and property, engineering and transport and utilities all reported salaries below the average CR pay of £64,000. CR professionals in the media, technology, banking and finance, consumer goods, health, telecom, industrials and natural resources sectors reported above average salaries.

The survey found that consultants, which made up 26 percent of total respondents, are paid less than their in-house counterparts by an average of £9,000, about the same pay gap seen in 2010. About 18 percent of consultants are paid less than £30,000 compared with a tenth of in-house staff.  Just over half of consultants earn less than £50,000 compared with 43 percent of in-house sustainability professionals.

The most pronounced consultant-to-in-house employee pay disparity is found in Europe. Consultants get closest to bridging that gap in North America, the survey said.

The highest in-house salaries are concentrated in companies with the most employees. The survey didn’t find a strong correlation between high salaries and the size of the CR team. Respondents earning more than £75,000 were evenly spread among teams of all sizes, which ranged from three or less, to more than 50.

Respondents from in-house teams said executive management had a high commitment to CR and sustainability goals. Fewer than 7 percent reported their company’s executive management team has a low or very low level of commitment.

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