The Truth About Sustainability Compensation

Sustainability or Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) professionals state that factors other than compensation are largely what drew them to the field; however, they still want to be compensated fairly.  As a CSR recruiter, I work directly with hiring managers. It's my experience that hiring managers want to compensate CSR professionals fairly.  Yet, I have also found that neither job seekers nor hiring managers know what is fair. 

Given that transparency is a tenet of CSR, it's ironic that CSR salaries are not more transparent.  The truth is that human resources policies, and salaries for that matter, still function on the traditional operating principles of the corporate sector. 

In addition, CSR is still a relatively small and nascent field with scant salary information available.  Worth noting is a well done 2010 survey conducted by U.K.-based Acre Resources [PDF], which had 595 respondents, of which 150 were based in North America. However, the report does not provide information specific to the United States, nor does it provide salary information by sector or job title. Also, a valuable new report is the just-released Profile of the Profession [PDF] from the Boston College Center for Corporate Citizenship (BCCC), which includes a gender-specific salary comparison, and is definitely worth checking out.

What is the Truth?

I'm hoping to shed light on CSR salaries with the purpose of helping hiring managers and employees benchmark what is fair. The source of this information is the hundreds of sustainability professionals I have interviewed during my searches. In the course of the recruitment process, these professionals disclose their salary.

While the information is anecdotal, I have observed consistency across so many candidates that I am confident that the salary information I share here is valid.  As such, this article has useful information for both employers and employees. 

Salaries Vary at the Surface; Dig Deeper for Enlightenment

Overall, salaries vary. The salary range that I have observed for sustainability professionals ranges from $48,000 to $500,000.  Not too helpful.

However, this wide range narrows when one adjusts for key factors. After taking these into account, the salaries become much more consistent and predictable.

The key factors are:

  • The employer (size, sector, industry)
  • Job title
  • Number of years post-graduation
  • Number of years professional experience plus education
  • Location (For example, NYC and San Francisco are among the most expensive cities and, therefore, one often finds higher salaries)
  • Reporting relationship (number of direct reports and proximity in reporting relationship to CEO)
  • The overall package (benefits, bonus, vacation, etc.)

In fact, when I take these factors into consideration, CSR salaries become so consistent that I am able to guess a candidate's salary with amazing precision. 

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