New survey results show Environment and Sustainability professionals continue to be among the happiest workers.

With buoyant salaries, positive prospects for promotion and strong resolve to take on workplace and wider political challenges, the survey paints a bright picture of the profession – but there are still some looming clouds.

Global sustainability body IEMA has today released the latest results of its annual State of the Profession survey, which has been running since 2005 to report the pay, potential and pitfalls of the environment and sustainability profession.

This year’s results report that 7 in 10 Environment and Sustainability Professionals say they are satisfied or highly satisfied with their roles. Even more (80%) of the who have moved to the profession from another occupation (31%) are happy with their chosen career. The high levels of satisfaction for this profession comes just months after the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) reported that general UK-wide job satisfaction was at a two-year low. The high satisfaction appears to be due to a number of factors including rising pay, good development opportunities and wide choices of work areas all contribute.

The profession enjoyed modest growth in take-home pay during 2016, with average salaries rising around 2% to just over £44,000 from £43,812 in 2015. 62% of IEMA’s members received a pay rise last year, and just 7% reported an earnings dip. Professionals working in business and industry are earning the most by sector, with a median salary of £49,000. Those in the financial and legal services sub-sector are at the top of the pay ladder, reporting average earnings of £70,339. 30% of self-employed practitioners were paid less in 2016, suggesting times remain tough for the consultancy market (where most self-employed workers in this profession operate), where the median salary is £37,500 which is still almost £10,000 more than the national average wage for 2016.

17% of the 1,451 respondents secured a promotion last year. 66% are in the same job they were in in 2016, showing some firm job stability in a profession where less than 1% are unemployed. The high rate of employment can be attributed to the high level of qualified workers. Almost two thirds (61%) have gained a post-graduate qualification, and 4% have completed a doctorate. 89% of respondents undertook some form of learning or development activity to keep their knowledge up to date.

IEMA’s CEO Tim Balcon says the continued high satisfaction and growing pay reflects the vibrancy of the profession and is good news for young people coming into the sector. “2016 was a milestone year for this profession, with a lot of shapeshifting policies and politics to keep up with, so it’s great to see that IEMA’s members remain passionate and empowered to make a difference. IEMA underwent a number of changes last year to mirror the changing nature of the profession, and that’s put us in a strong position to face the uncertainties we’ll face throughout 2017 around Brexit and the Great Repeal Bill together”.

With a number of political and regulatory challenges concerning Brexit and the US President who is sceptical about climate change likely to impact on this profession, 43% say they are optimistic about overcoming the challenges ahead and want to play a part in tackling them. A further 35% plan to carry on making a difference, but are less sure about the impact their efforts will have. 17% feel actively demoralised. The top concern for practitioners is keeping up to date with changing laws and regulations, while perfecting their work/life balance came in second.

While the 2016’s survey results tell a largely positive story, the statistics show that employers are risk of perpetuating a pay gap in comparative pay between male and female workers. Disparity in pay between the genders remains at 16.7%, which is unchanged from 2015’s report. The average pay for women in 2016 was £38,091 for women compared to £47,503 for men, however women account for 78% of all the part time workers in this year’s survey. A trend first identified in 2015 where younger female workers earn £2,000 more than men up to the age of 30 has persisted. However, this gap reverses and then widens, with earnings for men aged 55-64 typically earning £5,000 more than women in the same age group.

The survey also revealed that employers who need the most input and expertise from this profession risk losing top young talent. 63% say they would not work for any organisation that had a reputation for unethical practices. High polluters and organisations that offer unsafe working conditionals will also fail to attract young sustainability professionals.

IEMA CEO Tim Balcon commented on the research findings today, saying: “This is a young profession, and because it’s still developing it means that for every step forward we take there are residual difficulties to tackle. I strongly suggest employers review their pay strategies and corporate practices as they will lose out on attracting top talent, and - even worse - risk perpetuating inequalities that are frankly unacceptable in 2017. It’s time to tackle this and I know our members look forward to seeing the pay gap narrow significantly before we carry out this research again”.

State of the Profession Practitioners' Survey 2017 CLICK HERE