Invest Now in ESG or Pay the Price Later
Q1 2022 – MARKET OUTLOOK – SUSTAINABILITY & ESG

Invest Now in ESG or Pay the Price Later

ESG and Sustainability is currently top of the agenda for many organisations. Demand for skills is higher than ever, however, in some cases, those recruiting don’t know what they are looking for, or how much to pay them. Unfortunately, this seems to be the tip of the iceberg in the current market.

It’s fair to say that it has been a busy Q1 with no signs of slowing. We have seen the usual January vacancy surge, with companies wanting to get ahead on their recruitment for the year. One other positive is that in-person industry events are back. We attended Edie Sustainability Leaders Forum (and Awards) and it was great to see people again face to face, coming together to drive industry change. At both events, I got the sense people have hope and determination, and this is echoed in the market more broadly. Despite all of this, there is an overwhelming sense of concern that things are still moving too slowly. From conversations with people in large corporates, advisory firms, and investors over the course of the quarter, there is an ongoing sense people are overloaded, too busy and under-resourced – it’s a consistent theme.

On one hand, the fact that they are busy means that they have lots of work to do as sustainability professionals. On the other hand, the fact that in many cases there is too much work to do with limited resources, poses a fundamental question, as to whether organisations really are putting enough investment into this area and fast enough.

In addition, I hold concerns that those tasked with the important responsibility of hiring a ‘Director of Sustainability’ or a ‘Head of ESG’ are often either too busy to take the time to hire, a little lost with what they want or need, or have a very abstract perspective on what the right person looks like and how much they would need to pay them.

We are seeing this first-hand daily at the moment, where expectations from organisations looking to recruit are a long way from what can realistically be hired, both in terms of the breadth and depth of skills available, as well as salary levels. It takes time to do this properly and it will probably cost more than you think – this is the market we are in right now, and the longer you leave it to act on your needs, the harder it will become to hire.

Although we don’t have all the answers at Climate17 and Climate17 Search, we can help provide you broad market perspective and insight. We have found that this year, with increased demand, salary levels are naturally increasing. With the increasing pressure to bring in new skills and expertise in ESG and Sustainability, our clients need external expertise more than ever to successfully hire in this area. I have been saying to clients that in a competitive landscape, you only get one chance to make a first impression with a new role – one chance to state your intent. Getting it wrong can be costly and in the current market where candidates are moving quickly, you need to work with some tried and tested channels for talent, as it is only getting more competitive as we get further into the year.

- David Blake, Director