World: Sustainable investing boom and net zero pledges drive ESG talent war

The push for businesses to be run more sustainably is driving a surge in demand for professionals with environmental, social and governance expertise, according to consultants and recruiters.

More than one in five of the world’s largest companies have made some form of commitment to reaching net-zero emissions and investors are sharpening their focus on the social impact of companies they back, creating a boom in the market for specialists in corporate sustainability.

“The bottom line is demand far outstrips supply and so there is going to be a real war for talent and that will include compensation,” said Sarah Galloway, co-leader of recruiter Russell Reynolds Associates’ sustainability practice.

Demand for ESG experts is booming across professional services, including management consultancies, boutique advisory firms and property companies, recruiters and executives said.

But they face rising competition in attracting and retaining ESG-focused staff as more companies and fund managers commit to cutting their carbon footprint and place a greater emphasis on non-financial performance.

AstraZeneca, Aviva, BT, Legal & General and Rolls-Royce are among the companies that have pledged to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050.

Experts are also being lured by private equity funds to fill roles as chief sustainability officer and head of ESG with salaries varying widely, recruiters said.

“Private equity has realised you can’t IPO a business unless it’s got a really strong sustainability or ESG story so they are all hiring heads of ESG or sustainability at very senior levels . . . to oversee their portfolios,” said Galloway.

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