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Sustainability jobs survey highlights consulting vs in-house pay gap

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The numbers of female professionals engaged in the corporate reporting and sustainability (CRS) sector is suggested to be at an all-time high, according to the latest salary survey from recruitment specialist Acre, published in conjunction with consultancy Carnstone Partners and sustainability communications and reporting firm Flag.

This was gauged by the record percentage of female survey respondents in 2018 - which broke the 60% mark for the first time in the ten years Acre has been conducting the survey. However, CRS consultancy directors and partners are still twice as likely to be male than female, which may go some way to explaining the gender pay gap which exists in many of the larger environmental and sustainability consultancies (EA 11-04-18).

The results also underline that in general consultants are more poorly paid than their counterparts who work on the client-side in industry and, if anything, this gap is widening with the mean UK pay differential between those working for consultancies and those working in-house at £6.2k, up from £5k in 2016 (see figure).

This year’s survey draws on feedback from over 1,277 respondents working in the CRS space from around the world - with approximately 57% based in the UK, 22% based elsewhere in Europe, 11% North America and 10% the rest of the world.

Other key findings based on the responses of those working within CRS consultancy include:

  • Directors / partners are twice as likely to be male than female, and will usually have at least 15-20 years experience. People in this role earn a mean average of £88k (£80k in the UK) and control an anerage budget of £324k.
  • Senior consultants are more likely to be women (with a 58% female survey response rate this category). They will most likely boast a degree as well as a masters degree. On average they earn £59k (£60k in the UK) and will have worked in the sector for approximately ten years.
  • Consultants / analysts are more likely to be women (60% female response) and earn an average of £39k (£37k in the UK). They are likely to have previous CRS experience and to have been in full-time employment for around five years.

North American pay premium

In terms of salary, consultants working in North America were found to earn the most on average, at £75k annually, compared to £52k for those working in the UK and £55k for the rest of Europe. Across all these regions in-house CRS staff earn an average of 24% more than their consultancy counterparts.

Globally, just over one-fifth of the respondents working for consultancies are on less than £30k, while almost a third reported pay between £30-£50k and a quarter £50-£75k. Finally, a lucky 7% declared their earnings as between £100k and £220k per annum.

Graph - Average total cash remuneration in the UK, consultant vs in-house (£k) 2012-2018

Top five activities

For those working in the CRS consultancy sector the top five day-to-day activities were cited as:

  • CR / sustainability strategy development and implementation
  • Reporting / performance measurement
  • Stakeholder engagement
  • Auditing / assurance
  • Environment.


Almost 60% of respondents from consultancies said their employers have a policy to promote gender diversity, compared to 78% of those working in-house. Overall, 34% of respondents from consultancies believe their company to be ‘highly effective at promoting gender diversity’, while 52% rated them as only ‘moderately effective’.

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