The Sustainability University conducted a yearly survey under Dutch sustainability and CSR professionals the map the state of the profession in the Netherlands. The input of several sustainability professionals exhibits a general image of the current sustainability workforce landscape.
RESULTS OF THE STATE OF THE SUSTAINABILITY PROFESSIONS SURVEY 2021
The main conclusion of this year’s survey is that no progress has been made on embedding sustainability within the business processes of companies. Also, more and more sustainability managers have completed a master’s degree in sustainability, which is good for the further professionalization of the profession. However, the desire of the professionals to continue working in sustainability throughout their careers does not contribute to the importance of integrated action in all business activities.
More and more sustainability professionals with sustainability masters
The profile of the sustainability manager has been stable of the years. Sustainability professionals are still highly educated. Participants with a Bachelor’s degree (21%) or Master’s degree (67%) remain the vast majority. This year we also see a significant increase of the number of participants with a Doctorate/PHD (12%). It is interesting to note that there seems to be steady increase in the amount of Master’s degrees in CSR related disciplines over the years (28%). This may benefit the further professionalization of the sustainability profession.
We see a significant increase in the amount of CSR project or program managers (from 16% in 2020 towards 33% in 2021) amongst the participants. Looking at the work experience of the sustainability professionals, we notice that more professionals have less than 5 years of experience in sustainability. This could indicate that we have more newcomers to the profession. We also see a slight decrease in the average amount of base annual pay amongst all of the participants. This is likely due to the fact that a bigger part of the participants of the survey is new to CSR/sustainability and their roles.
Sustainability professional want to continue their sustainability career
A stable trend is that over the years around 60% of survey participants indicate that their previous job was within CSR/sustainability, around 40% indicate it was outside CSR/sustainability. Also, each year the majority of participants say that their job description somewhat or fully reflects their current role. A major development in the profile of the CSR manager is 4 years of study show a big change in the number of professionals wanting to continue working in CSR/Sustainability. Nowadays, 95% of sustainability professionals want to continue their sustainability career, while only half of them wanted this in 2018. This could indicate that the CSR/sustainability field is becoming more and more attractive to work in.
More sustainability professionals in renewable energy and digital technology
Most of the sustainability professionals still work in large (inter)national companies in a variety of sectors. Renewable energy and digital technology subsectors are increasing amongst participants. Waste and resource management and Engineering are decreasing.
Over the years, there are also no large changes in the number of sustainability professionals being part of a team or the amount of FTE formally are formally allocated to integrating CSR/sustainability over the years. There was a small decrease in the reported FTE from 2019 to 2020, and then a small increase from 2020 to this year. This year participants indicate that there are more people between the highest ranked CSR/Sustainability Manager and the CEO in their organization compared to last year. In 60% of the cases, there is only one person between the sustainability and the CEO or the sustainability manager stands directly next to the CEO. In 2020, this was 76%. Positive trend seems that more sustainability professionals are being present in the digital technology sector, while IT remains the process where CSR is currently least embedded.
Less successful in embedding sustainability in all business processes
This year’s participants report the first decline in 4 years in embedding sustainability within companies. General management & Strategy remains the process with the most CSR embedded, while IT remains the process with the least CSR embedded. The importance of embedding sustainability in all business processes lies in integrated thinking, acting and reporting. After all, sustainability managers strive to make sustainability an integral part of their strategy and to report on it integrally. This means that a company must also act integrally, in other words from all the different business processes.
For sustainable success, sustainably professionals need to invest in other roles
The Mentor, Innovator and Monitor roles remain unpopular over the survey years and are also the roles that participants spend the least time on. The Monitor role remains the least popular role by far. The Strategist role remains the most popular: the participants of the survey already spend a large portion of their time on this role (23%) prefer to spend even more (58%) and want to develop it further (52%). It seems that over the years, more sustainability professionals would like to develop the coordinator and initiator role. It is important that sustainability professionals invest in all roles, as previous research from Sustainability University shows that balancing these roles will help CSR managers implement sustainability in their work. accelerate organizations.
Table 1: the 7 roles of a sustainability professional
Source: 7 Roles to Create Sustainable Succes by Carola Wijdogen Read more about the roles on our website.
COVID-19 helped reaching sustainability goals, however focus on Circular Economy decreases
A very other interesting result of this year’s survey, is that participants report that the COVID-19 pandemic has made it easier to reach their sustainability goals. However, Circular Economy and Social Responsibility appear to decrease in focus. The focus on Climate and Energy Transition’s focus remains the same in the last two years.
The Sustainability University, founded by Carola Wijdoogen and Elfrieke van Galen, aims to accelerate the development of CSR professionals to become more successful in their work and in achieving the challenging sustainability goals. For more information abou our work or the survey results, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org