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Psst, sustainability execs. Are you being paid what you are worth?

As the focus of sustainability jobs shifts from compliance to doing good, the first GreenBiz Salary Survey reports that average salaries top six-figures for senior sustainability jobs.
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Written by Heather Clancy, Contributor on

Hey sustainability sorts: It may be time to rewrite your job description, and to make sure your paycheck reflects the true value of your job.

The first GreenBiz Salary Survey is out, and it suggests that environmental compliance and sustainability executives are among the positions to thaw hiring freezes at many larger companies. Just one year ago, the survey reports, up to 27 percent of large companies said they weren't in a position to fill these positions because of the recession. One year later, only 11 percent say the same. In fact, more than 28 percent intend to increase headcount for environmental and sustainability personnel, according to the GreenBiz research.

Joel Makower, co-founder and executive editor of Greener World Media, says the sustainability function has broken the barriers of the environmental compliance department to pervade functions in purchasing, facilities, operations, human resources, finance, legal and research & development. That's one reason that sustainability hiring appears to have picked up. "The responsibility of senior sustainability professionals has changed from compliance to doing well by doing good," Makower says.

Prior to this, many sustainability roles were looked at as cost centers rather than as opportunities to generate new revenue or corporate goodwill, he says.

The GreenBiz Salary Survey reflects the opinions of more than 500 sustainability professionals.

Some other findings:

  • More than 80 percent of the sustainability executives are optimistic that their value will be felt through at least the next five years
  • These are senior executives: Vice presidents of sustainability are earning an average of $192,064, directors earn an average of $160,320 and manages are earning an average of $103,197.
  • Sustainability execs have an education: More than half of the people holding the titles I just mentioned have master's degrees. (Which tend to garner higher salaries.)

Of course, it's important to note that all of this data really applies to larger companies. Unless you happen to be a green dry-cleaner or hardware story or energy consultant, many smaller businesses still don't have environmental or sustainability functions unless there is some punitive compliance function hanging over their head. Or one of their bigger supply-chain partners has a sustainability mandate in place and is trying to lead the way. Think Wal-Mart in retail, Hewlett-Packard in high-tech. I really don't see anything happening to change that in the near future, given the current political climate.

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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