Sustainability risks becoming an elite sector

29th September 2016

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Gemma Baxter

The corporate responsibility and sustainability (CRS) profession is doing too little to aid social mobility, delegates at an industry debate were told.

The discussion, hosted by the Institute for Corporate Responsibility and Sustainability (ICRS), questioned whether the sector was becoming too elite. The institute’s 2016 salary survey revealed that 93% of professionals have a degree, and 63% hold a master’s or doctorate qualification.

These figures have steadily risen since the survey was first conducted in 2007, suggesting that high academic qualifications are a prerequisite to entering the profession, the ICRS said.

Jobs are increasingly based in London, according to job site Indeed, which found that between 2013 and 2016, the capital’s share of CRS roles compared with the whole of the UK increased by 75%. The high cost of living in London, coupled with student debt, may deter those with limited financial support joining the profession, the ICRS concluded.

The institute’s chair, Claudine Blamey, said that age, gender and racial diversity had all been scrutinised in recent years, but social diversity had received less attention. She questioned whether the sector was drawing from an increasingly small pool of talent.

‘We now need to consider whether we have the social diversity to really understand and tackle some of our biggest social and environmental challenges,’ she said.

Beth Knight, head of corporate sustainability at consultancy EY, said that the firm’s recruitment policy focused on candidates being of ‘degree calibre’ rather than whether they had attained a degree. ‘It’s about assessing aptitude. 'They have to be bright and able to think on their feet,’ she said.

Matthew Taylor, chief executive at the RSA, said people from disadvantaged backgrounds probably do not know that the sector exists.

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