How Much Money Do CSR Professionals Make?

If you follow green business news, you might have started wondering if CSR might be a good career path for you. I bet the next thing you thought about was how much CSR professionals actually make. Wonder no more – Acre Resources, Acona, Ethical Performance and Flag of the UK have just released the 2012 CR & Sustainability Salary Survey with salary data and some very interesting information on the professional Corporate Responsibility and Sustainability landscape.

Before diving into the numbers, it’s important to note that the picture presented in this survey is very positive and encouraging. “The CR enterprise has never been an easy one to define, but its growth over the last 10 years has been striking, both in terms of the ambition of its aims and the number of personnel. Judging by this, the fourth CR Salary Survey, the sector is evolving and growing at a faster pace than ever in spite of the uncertain economic climate,” the authors write.

This year’s survey is based on 847 respondents, an increase of 42 percent on the 2010 survey. The majority of the participants are from the UK (53 percent), and the rest are from North America (22 percent), rest of Europe (13 percent) and the rest of the world (12 percent). This division can hint that the results might be a bit U.K.-biased, but nevertheless the dataset is large enough to show global trends as well.

Salaries of CSR professionals go up

So how much do CSR professionals make? Overall, the survey reports, average salaries are defying economic uncertainties and continuing to rise. If we look at average salaries, the highest paid region is the rest of Europe (i.e., Europe excluding the UK) with an average salary of $109,500, followed by North America ($108,000), the rest of the world ($106,000) and finally the UK ($89,500).

Looking at bonuses, more than one third (36 percent) of respondents worldwide received no bonus in the last 12 months. Nearly 90 percent of those who did receive a bonus got less than $56,500.

The highest paying sectors: Industrials and natural resources
Not too surprising the average salaries vary by sector. This year the leading sectors are natural resources ($151,000) and industrials ($147,500). These sectors have overtaken the 2010 leaders -construction and property (11th place this time, $89,500) and technology (7th place, $109,500 –this year though it doesn’t include telecoms, which is ranked third).

At the bottom of the list you can find professional and support services ($74,500) and leisure ($71,500). The trends in the results reflect to some degree the overall state of the sectors – for example, the weakness of the construction sector, or the banking and finance sector that showed relatively low salaries again this year, and is placed sixth in the table ($111,000).

Consultants are lagging behind in-house professionals
Working for a company is more lucrative than working as a consultant when it comes to CSR. Consultants are paid less than their in-house counterparts by, on average, $14,500 – a similar pay gap to that seen in 2010. This trend is global – consultants on average earn less than their in-house colleagues across all regions.

If you’re wondering if CSR professionals are paid well only in large corporations, the answer is no. Although as before, the highest in-house salaries are concentrated in the largest companies and among those who have the most generous budgets, this year’s survey suggests there is not a strong correlation between high salaries and the size of the CR team. Respondents earning more than $119,000 were fairly evenly spread among teams of all sizes, ranging from one to three to 50-plus.

Women are losing their dominant position within the CSR workforce
Globally, the dominance of women as a proportion of the total CSR workforce appears to be on the decline, with a 52 percent women to 48 percent men split this year, against a 56/44 split in 2010. This decline is particularly marked in consultancies, where women now make up just 47 percent of staff, down five points from 2010. This year’s results also show that women continue to be under-represented as senior consultants and consultancy directors/senior partners, as well as in senior in-house positions. As a result, the average salary for men ($107,000) is higher in 18.4 percent than the average salary of women ($90,000).

Sustainability has become an increasingly leading role in the CSR agenda
One of the interesting questions the survey explored was what the main activities CSR professionals focus on are. It found, as Dorje Mundle, Group Head, Corporate Citizenship at Novartis notes that the top activities of both in-house and consultants have shifted from reporting to strategy and implementation. In companies the top five activities were: (1) CR/sustainability strategy development and implementation, (2) Environment, (3) Community investment, (4) Reporting/performance measurement, and (5) Carbon/energy management.

Happy CSR people
The survey ends with another optimistic piece of information – CSR professionals overwhelmingly remain happy with their work (80 percent are satisfied), feel that their job security has improved or remained the same over the past 12 months (80 percent) and would recommend a career in the sector (94 percent). Can it get any better than this?

[Image credit: The 2012 CR & Sustainability Salary Survey]

Raz Godelnik is the co-founder of Eco-Libris, a green company working to green up the book industry in the digital age. He is an adjunct faculty at the University of Delaware’s Business School, CUNY SPS and the New School, teaching courses in green business and new product development.

Raz Godelnik

Raz Godelnik is an Assistant Professor and the Co-Director of the MS in Strategic Design & Management program at Parsons School of Design in New York. Currently, his research projects focus on the impact of the sharing economy on traditional business, the sharing economy and cities’ resilience, the future of design thinking, and the integration of sustainability into Millennials’ lifestyles. Raz is the co-founder of two green startups – Hemper Jeans and Eco-Libris and holds an MBA from Tel Aviv University.

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