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IEMA's annual State of the Profession report reveals employment and satisfaction rates are stable, salaries grow and the gender pay gap has narrowed.

Job satisfaction for the environment & sustainability profession continues to outperform the UK average, and practitioners remain optimistic in the face of a growing list of challenges.

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.

Statistics from the survey reveal that almost seven in ten environment and sustainability professionals say they are satisfied or highly satisfied in their jobs. The one third of respondents who have moved into the profession from another sector are even more happy, with their satisfaction rising to 78%. The national average for satisfaction for UK workers stands at 64% according to the CIPD’s Employee Outlook report, or 60% as stated by recruitment experts CV-Library.

The high satisfaction appears to be due to a number of factors including rising pay, stable employment and career mobility. The profession enjoyed modest growth in take-home pay during 2017, with median salaries rising 2.6% from £39,000 to £40,000 in a year. This is comfortably above the typical pay for UK employees which was £28,758 in 2017. Just 1% of IEMA’s respondents stated that they’re unemployed (the national UK employment rate is currently 74% according to the ONS), and for those in post, 17% gained a promotion during the past year. The high rate of employment can be attributed to the high level of qualified workers; 60% have gained a post-graduate qualification of some kind, and 5% have completed a doctorate.

IEMA’s CEO Tim Balcon says the positivity reported by IEMA’s survey will help promote the profession to school leavers, Graduates and career changers: “It’s fantastic that yet again, we are able to report that this is a profession that exceeds the national averages for job satisfaction, employability and pay. Anyone looking for a job that recognises and rewards dedication and the ability to make positive change should look no further. People in this profession are happy, do rewarding and varied work, are in control of their development, can rely on the right kind of career mobility and have healthy salaries”.

There is also positive news about closing the pay gap between genders which has caused concern in previous years. The difference between men and women’s earnings has narrowed by 2.6% in the last twelve months, however at 14.1%, the gap is still higher than national average. Women are still under-represented in senior roles but this group does appear to be earning more than men between the ages of 40-45 and 50-54.

Survey respondents describe their roles as “challenging” (74%), “rewarding” (54%), full of opportunity” (38%) and “complex” (34%). Just 8% say they feel their profession is understood by others.

Given the scale of sustainability challenges and continued political uncertainty caused by Brexit, environment & sustainability professionals could be apprehensive or even pessimistic about the future, but IEMA’s respondents are raring to go. 56% say they are optimistic about tacking the challenges ahead - up 13% on the same time last year. However, the under 30s are slightly more sceptical, as one third say they’ll carry on doing their bit but are unsure what difference they can make in the face of so many challenges. Also, professionals across they survey generally want to see evidence of far stronger political leadership (64%) corporate leadership (51%) on environment and sustainability this year. 35% want to see evidence of more cross-profession/industry collaboration on the big issues.

CEO Tim Balcon said today that professionals’ optimism is unsurprising but there is work to do: “This profession has a huge responsibility on its shoulders yet I am not surprised that so many practitioners are undeterred. This is a group of people who dedicate their entire careers to tackling challenges and delivering against global goals for a sustainable future.”

“The issues we have to overcome aren’t limited to environmental challenges; I am pleased to see the pay gap between men and women is closing, but we have far to go. I want to call on all employers to address how they support the career paths of gifted female workers as well as those from diverse backgrounds. The levels of talent, knowledge, skill, and ambition in the IEMA membership – all evidenced in the 2018 State of the Profession report - is beyond impressive and employers risk missing out if they don’t take the right steps now,” said Balcon this morning.

Click here to download the full IEMA survey report.