Report finds a narrowing of the gender pay gap, an increase in optimism and a modest rise in salaries

2nd March 2018

The survey – which captures the views and workplace experiences of 1,053 members across a wide range of sectors – finds that the median gender pay gap for full-time environment and sustainability professionals has narrowed to 14.1% from 16.7% a year ago. This remains higher than the gender pay gap across the whole economy, however. Women are under-represented in senior roles – an area where change is needed to narrow the pay gap further.

Environment and sustainability professionals can expect to earn a median £40,000 a year, up from £39,000 a year ago, ranging from £44,000 in business and industry to a median of £31,250 in the third sector. Around two-thirds of respondents reported getting a pay rise in 2017, although fewer than one in three self-employed members reported a pay increase.

Most members are finding their jobs challenging, sometimes stressful, but hugely rewarding, the findings suggest. One respondent says of their role: “We undertake a wide range of projects, which are often complex and challenging, meaning that we can constantly learn and apply our skills in new ways. Our work is certainly not boring.” When respondents were asked to describe their feelings about the profession, “challenging”, “rewarding” and “full of opportunity” came up the most. Strikingly, only 8% felt that the profession was “understood” by others, suggesting that IEMA members face a huge communications challenge in working with colleagues to transform their organisations to sustainability.

Many members reported having achieved academic or professional qualifications in 2017 or an upgrade of their IEMA membership. Our analysis of pay rates shows that taking such steps has significant benefits in pay terms as well as in professional development, with the median rate for members at Practitioner grade (£40,000 a year) rising to £47,500 for Full members and £86,500 for those who have reached the leadership status of Fellow.

One source of opportunities to learn and develop is the sheer diversity of the environment and sustainability professional’s role. Respondents cited achievements ranging from employee-engagement programmes to shaping big infrastructure projects or securing significant cost or energy savings for their organisations. There is a healthy level of job mobility in the profession, with 17% gaining promotion to a more senior role and 14% making a horizontal move either internally or externally.

Job satisfaction in the profession remains high, with 68% satisfied or very satisfied with their current role, and just 6% dissatisfied. Those who have changed career to work as environment and sustainability professionals find their roles particularly rewarding, with satisfaction rising to 78% among this group.

Given the scale of environmental and political challenges and uncertainty, environment and sustainability professionals might be forgiven some apprehension and pessimism as we enter 2018. However, IEMA members are raring to go, with a higher proportion of respondents (56%) optimistic about tackling the challenges ahead than was the case this time last year (43%).

IEMA SURVEY: To read and download the full IEMA survey 2018, visit:

Image credit: iStock


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