Environment and Sustainability roles are the career change of choice with almost 90% of IEMA Members who have moved into the profession reporting high levels of satisfaction with their choice of new career.

Environment and Sustainability roles are becoming the career change of choice, with 42% of professionals who now work in these roles consider themselves “career changers” according to IEMA’s annual Practitioner Survey. Those who started professional life in non-environmental roles are very satisfied to have made the change, with 87% saying they are either satisfied or very satisfied with their choice of career change. The reported levels of satisfaction have risen a full 10% among the same group since last year.

Skills in this profession are now proving to be more vital as IEMA research - published in our seminal “Preparing for the Perfect Storm” report - found that there is a skills gap; only 13% of organisations are fully confident that they have the skills to successfully compete in a sustainable economy. By 2020 the global economy could be facing a supply deficit caused by rising population matched with growing scarcity of vital resources, rapidly rising prices of key essential materials such as energy, together with climate change challenges. Collectively these issues will not only affect businesses’ ability to operate but limit its ability to take advantage of opportunities to enhance competitiveness and productivity. IEMA says that environment and sustainability skills are the key to turning these challenges into opportunities.

Many UK Plcs are recognising these opportunities and are embedding environment and sustainability skills into the fabric of their business. Jonathan Garrett, CSR Director at Jaguar Land Rover, explains: “Investing in talented people is crucial to the sustainable growth of Jaguar Land Rover. We have doubled our workforce over the past five years to 34,000 people, including 2,000 graduates and apprentices. Embedding sustainability into our business plan and fostering a passion for ‘Environmental Innovation’ amongst our people has helped us achieve business success.”

Because of the rising demand for these skills at entry level, universities are changing their teaching programmes to ensure they can provide the right skills into the UK’s workforce. Paul Caulfield, Director of MBA in CSR at Nottingham University Business School’s International Centre for Corporate Social Responsibility (ICCSR) said: “To thrive businesses need to move sustainability from a peripheral issue to one that’s at their heart. Those organisations that are doing that today are really benefitting. I believe that soon, sustainability will become the core of every degree course to ensure the supply of these skills matches the demand from business, society, and the future.”

Tim Balcon, CEO of IEMA, says: “Environment and sustainability roles are rewarding careers – with high job satisfaction levels. With the economy becoming increasingly dependent on environment and sustainability skills, it’s great to see that many who boast these skills are enjoying their roles to such a high level, The new skills and people that are entering the profession have a vital role to play in enhancing and supporting business action in this area.”

Contrary to the rest of the economy, pay levels in the environment and sustainability profession continue to rise, making the profession attractive to move into. Further results from IEMA’s Practitioner Survey, carried out annually since 2007, reveal that almost three quarters (73.5%) of Environment and Sustainability professionals experienced a pay rise during 2014, a figure which has substantially increased from 59% from the previous year. The average annual pay for a practitioner moving into an Environment and Sustainability role at junior or Graduate level is just over £23,000, with prospects of earning up to £38,975 at Project or Middle Manager level. The highest earners at CEO or Director level can expect to bring in up to £230,000 year.

The Environment and Sustainability profession also clearly demonstrate high levels of personal commitment and motivation to develop and train – with over 92% of those surveyed undertaking some form of professional development. The 2014 Practitioner Survey also found that IEMA members are typically highly qualified. Almost half of all respondents (46.6%) have at least a Masters degree as their highest academic qualification.

“Environment & Sustainability roles are clearly becoming the career change of choice. With growing demands on business due to resource scarcity and climate change, and a career built upon high levels of satisfaction and rewarding pay and training, Environment & Sustainability is clearly the ‘go-to profession,” said Tim Balcon.


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