7 October 2011 – At last the Australian sustainability industry is starting to gain an insight into the worth of its people. At least in terms of salaries and roles, thanks to the first comprehensive survey of green jobs.

It’s good news for property, money wise. According to the executive summary of the 2011 Sustainability Roles & Salary Survey the property industry has trumped rival sectors, banking and finance, at least in terms of highest average salary for sustainability classified jobs. But there is a  twist in the tale: property and real estate scored lowest on satisfaction.

Among the states, NSW has come out first in terms of salaries, ahead of Victoria by nearly $10,000.

Average salaries were:

  • property and real estate                                  $144,253
  • Construction                                                      $134,482
  • Banking, insurance, financial service           $130,046
  • Energy and utilities                                          $118,484
  • Manufacturing                                                   $117,242
  • Consulting (engineering services)                 $ 98,152
  • Consulting (professional services)                $ 98,152
  • Environmental services                                   $ 97,416
  • Education                                                           $ 90,230
  • Non-profit                                                          $ 78,310

The survey was conducted by a cornucopia of interests from the green industry: recruitment consultancy Turning Green which led the project and key partners, The Association of chartered Certified Accountants, the Green Building Council of Australia, the Australian Green Infrastructure Council, Environmental Jobs Network, and Models of Success and Sustainability.

It attracted 804 respondents, with a 77 per cent completion rate. In terms of gender the rate was 48 per cent female and 52 per cent male. More than half the respondents worked in-house for companies, while 30 per cent were from consultancies. Only 7 per cent were from the not for profit sector.

A clear indicator of the survey was that there is significant confusion about what constitutes a green occupation, making forecasts of demand for specific roles problematic.

This made it “very difficult to estimate what new and emerging occupations currently exist or are likely to be created with various green economy plans,” the report said.

Another difficulty was that 35 per cent of those surveyed said they expected a skills shortage in the future, which would make it difficult to recruit staff. A need for more training was cited as important.  Currently 90 per cent of respondents were tertiary educated.

The survey noted that an objective of the Council of Australian Governments Green Skills Agreement was to develop national standards in skills for sustainability.

However it was also clear that sustainability and environment-focused roles existed across all industries.

Key driver for job creation in the industry were:

  • Energy management
  • Carbon management
  • Water management
  • Sustainable procurement
  • Product lifecycle
  • Product composition
  • Ethical labor standards

One key finding in the survey was that the length of time working in the field had an impact on salary: those with 10 years of experience in general commanding double the salary of others.

Another interesting factor was that most respondents – 67 per cent – were satisfied with their jobs, but this rose to 75 per cent in the not for profit sector.

Lowest satisfaction levels were reported for property and real estate – 58 per cent and construction (53 per cent). (this, despite scoring the highest average salary.)

What might explain this?

The survey authors took a punt: “This could indicate that individual’s ideals are changing and that the financial return from a job is just one of the many components that attract them to a role.

“The subjective aspect of a position, for example work-life balance, contributing to a worthwhile cause and job satisfaction, is just as important as the objective outcomes of prestige, power, money and advancement.”

The executive summary is available free here

The full 115 page report is available at various prices with discounts to participants. Contact lisa@turninggreen.com.au

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