By Tina Perinotto
10 February 2011 –
Salaries for environmental professionals in top listed companies have surged ahead of those of their peers in the safety sector by a massive 25 per cent, according to the latest 2011 SafeSearch and EnviroSearchGlobal annual salary survey released yesterday (Wednesday).

Average salary for a head of environment role leapt to  $289,000, up from $194,000 in only 12 months, according to the survey, which captures the experiences of 898 people in 62 companies, mostly from the ASX 200.

The property sector had also kept pace with the increases, as demand outstripped supply of available skills and top roles now fetched up to $250,000 a year before extras such as superannuation and bonuses, a jump of 15-20 per cent in the period.

SafeSearch managing director, Julie Honore, says that in the five years the survey has been operating, this was the first time we have seen environmental professionals earn more than safety professionals.

“This is most unusual and a recognition that these roles are clearly stand alone positions now,” Ms Honore said.

“This brings environmental salaries in Australia in line with worldwide salary rises for this sector.”

In the broad corporate sector, environmental managers  reaped the benefits of resurgent demand for their skills, with salaries rising 28 per cent on a year ago to average $144,658 – 9 per cent higher than pre-global financial crisis levels, “depending on industry and location,” a report on the survey said.

National environment manager total average remuneration was up 21 per cent, to $192,640.

Queensland floods will bite the salary budget
EnviroSearchGlobal Director Richard Evans said the recent flood disaster would mean environmental salary packages would continue to rise as resources are drawn into the Queensland region.

“It is expected that the flood recovery will create $10 billion in added revenue for the construction industry alone. With this, there will naturally be a need for environmental expertise, creating a higher demand than we are already seeing.  With environmental skills shortages already apparent, it is likely salaries will continue to rise.”

Property roles make rich pickings – and it’s a leader
Mr Evans told The Fifth Estate that in the property sector the head of sustainability in a major company could today expect between $200,000 and $230,000 a year as a base salary plus super and bonuses.

“It really depends on the organisation; if it’s a large organisation with a team [to manage] you would expect around $250,000 plus super and bonuses but you wouldn’t expect much less than that,” Mr Evans said.

“If it’s smaller, it’s probably just you, maybe with an analyst so you’re stretched a bit thinner. You would expect $200,000 to $210,000 plus super and bonuses.

“From my observations with the movement in the market salaries were jumping by 15 per cent to 20 per cent [in the past 12 months].  This has been necessary to extract key staff out of existing roles and into new challenges.

Mr Evans said that among the sectors he worked in – from resources to manufacturing and property, property was ahead of other industries.

“Property is leading the market in terms of sustainability: in terms of initiatives it’s more proactive. Everyone else seems to be compliance driven.”

He said that within the property sector the demand was for people who “could do strategy but also the operational technical skills. They might want a head of sustainability but also want them to manage the EMS, [environment management services] and do the number crunching on NGER reporting [National Greenhouse and Energy Reporting].”

The result, however, could be a “very high paid analyst” who was understimulated and might want to leave, he said.

A difficulty with new roles in sustainability was often a mismatch of expectations between employer and employee.

A company needed to understand where it was on its “journey” I sustainability first, Mr Evans said.

“They say they want a head of sustainability, but you ask ‘where are you on your journey?’ they say our competitor has a head of sustainability so we need one.”

Often said Mr Evans it was a case of a company that would say, “we don’t want to be leading edge but they don’t want to be left behind.”

Mr Evans who has recruited for some of the top roles over the past three years for companies such as Goodman, VicUrban, Spotless and Boral, said the big moves by leading sustainability professionals had generally occurred last year and he expected this year to be quieter.

However, this was more as a result of scarcity of talent rather than demand and reflected that people in new positions were unlikely to be tempted away from a new role in less than 12 months.

Some recruiters especially in the resources sector, he said, were knocking back retainers because they were unsure they that they could fulfil their clients’ needs.

editorial@thefifthestate.com.au

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