Published 2 years ago.
About a 4 minute read.
It’s brilliant news that sustainability and ESG professionals look set to become as critical to any business as operations, sales and marketing; but for brands that rely on a steady stream of candidates in these roles, it will require a rethink of hiring strategies.
2020 might have been wrought with crisis for many sectors; but for
sustainability and ESG professionals, it marked a turning point. The last year
has firmly cemented the relationship between purpose-led business and corporate
success, with a wide swathe of companies now stepping up recruitment of
specialist sustainability and impact
Jobs that touch on the “green” economy alone are expected to soar 105 percent
according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
For the many motivated and experienced sustainability professionals out there,
this presents a big opportunity. What better time to kickstart your career, go
after that promotion or even start from scratch in the specialty?
But if you’re a recruiter, particularly at a brand where sustainability is
embedded into every part of the business, it presents a big challenge. When
competition for the best sustainability professionals out there just got a lot
tougher, how do you attract, retain and empower them to drive progress at your
Did you know that nearly two out of three
people aren’t currently happy or
fulfilled in their
For companies looking to grow their pool of talent in a competitive space, it
pays to first identify existing staff members — those that have already proved
their worth and know the business — that might be looking for new opportunities
in impact or purpose-led roles.
Encourage line managers to check in with teams and get a sense of who might be
itching for a new challenge. Actively promote sustainability and ESG roles on
internal comms and highlight that full training can be given. Offer taster
sessions in which any member of staff can learn more about the sustainability
and impact work going on within the company.
The important thing is that, before you look outside for new recruits, ensure
you’re not missing out on great talent currently dormant within the business.
One of the great things about ESG and sustainability coming to the fore across
all types of businesses, is that it’s no longer siloed in a specialist
department, or sat separate from the nuts and bolts of
But as the reality of these roles evolve, so too do recruitment teams need to
more carefully define the role that potential candidates are looking at.
That means avoiding vague terms or criteria that could encompass any role in
sustainability. Just as you’d expect each cover letter to be tailored for each
role, ensure each job spec is specific to the individual job opening.
For technical roles, for instance, ensure that the specialist departments are
working alongside HR teams to draft criteria, and have a final check before the
job is advertised.
Previously, recruiters at forward-thinking companies had the advantage. They
were few and far between, while mainstream companies saw little reason to bother
with the specialism beyond a small CSR team in a corner office. That meant their
competition was a smaller pool of often similar companies. Now that demand for
ESG and sustainability professionals has
covering every industry, that competition is vast and far less familiar.
That means it pays dividends to carry out a benchmarking exercise for the types
of roles you’re recruiting for. Where possible, conduct or commission a
salary-benchmarking study or use an external recruitment agency to do a
candidate-mapping exercise. Know what you’re up against.
As we all know, many candidates don’t land their dream job by waiting for the
perfect recruitment ad to pop up. That’s even truer in the ESG and
sustainability sphere — where the transferability of skills, and the movement
between totally different industries, makes networking and relationship-building
such a big part of securing your next gig.
But this same logic applies to recruiters on the other side of the fence. With
ESG and sustainability, it’s crucial to look beyond your immediate competitors,
beyond your industry and — given the lessons of 2020 — even beyond your typical
to land the best candidate for the job.
Doing so can be both challenging and resource-intensive, though. So, don’t
ignore the power in leveraging your existing networks and relationships as a
business — i.e., your existing team. Set aside budget to incentivize staff to
identify and flag opportunities to external candidates they know. Set a KPI for
senior leadership, with rewards attached. Create an open channel for staff to
highlight potential candidates, whether there’s a specific job vacancy or not.
It’s brilliant news that sustainability and ESG professionals look set to become
as critical to any business as operations, sales and marketing; but for brands
that rely on a steady stream of candidates in these roles, it will require a
rethink of hiring strategies. Without a big effort to attract and retain top
talent, even the most sustainable-centric business might find themselves losing
out to the competition.
Published Jun 14, 2021 8am EDT / 5am PDT / 1pm BST / 2pm CEST
Shannon Houde, MBA, ACC, is a certified Leadership Coach, Management Consultant and Talent Strategist with 20 years serving as a trusted advisor to evolving change leaders from Managers to CEOs.