Sustainability, diversity and inclusion matter for both job seekers and hiring firms, according to a new report from recruitment firm Robert Walters
There was a record number of job vacancies in Ireland this year centred around environment, social and governance (ESG) – with more anticipated in 2022, according to global recruiter Robert Walters.
Robert Walters estimates that there have been 1,600 new jobs created this year alone around ESG – with the number of people moving into these roles increasing by +13% to now represent upwards of 31,000 professionals in Ireland.
“The number of ESG roles across Ireland has risen sharply this year and will continue to grow as organisations strive to be more ethical, fair and inclusive”
The heightened focus on ESG comes as the Irish Government published its Climate Action Plan in November, which aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 51% by 2030.
Central Bank of Ireland did not hesitate to warn the sector by setting out supervisory expectations of regulated firms regarding climate change – placing governance high on the agenda.
Mindset over must
According to the Robert Walters report – Environment, Social, and Governance: Mindset Over Must – ESG is being treated with increasing importance by business leaders, with 90% of the country’s leading firms considering ESG in their top-level strategic decisions.
“Right now, businesses are under more scrutiny than ever. Processes, suppliers, materials, and policies often have more of an impact on consumer actions than a finished product,” said Louise Campbell, managing director of Robert Walters Ireland.
“As governments strive to achieve environmental targets, and the choice widens for customers on socially-conscious products and services – ESG will increasingly become more critical for survival, and not just for investment.
“With that the number of ESG roles across Ireland has risen sharply this year and will continue to grow as organisations strive to be more ethical, fair and inclusive.
“These roles can sit in HR (+44%), IT (+42%), Marketing (+40%), Finance (+8%), Research (+6%), Legal (+4%) or standalone roles reporting directly to the Board – and will lead to new working practices impacting organisational sustainability and resilience, whilst also building long term value for Stakeholders.”
What ESG roles are being created?
When looking at ESG hiring data in Ireland, it appears that new roles based specifically around sustainability have slowed down in 2021.
In part this could be because amongst the biggest organisations are already ahead of the game – with 93% of Ireland’s largest firms already having a dedicated sustainability lead within the firm, of which 66% are at the executive level.
Analysts at Robert Walters predict that many companies had been waiting to see the outcome of COP26 and government commitments before deciding what type of sustainability expertise they would need – with hiring expected to pick up rapidly in the first quarter of 2022 now that pledges have been agreed.
Not surprisingly, it has been the Consumer Goods & Services sector that has been the most active when hiring for environment or sustainability experts – accounting for a third of all job vacancies.
Equality and diversity
Hiring for equality and diversity specialists represents a fifth of all ESG-related job vacancies in Ireland – 44% of which has been for senior roles.
This is no surprise as campaigners and business associations look to get D&I back on the agenda after many believe it took a back seat during the pandemic.
Professional Services accounted for the industry publishing the most vacancies – accounting for 22% of all jobs posted, followed by financial services (19%), technology & media (18%), real estate & construction (13%), and consumer goods & services (11%).
For roles where holders are responsible for driving business revenue or strategy, women made up less than a sixth of applicants in Ireland. Just over one in four of the total 3,600 applications for senior roles within regulated Irish firms in Ireland last year were from women — little change from 2019.
With over 70% of Irish professionals stating that they would decline a job offer if a company’s D&I values did not align with their own, Robert Walters analysts predict that high growth companies will be looking to ramp up their D&I personnel in the New Year to aid retention and continue attracting the best talent.
Governance high on boardroom agenda
Among the most popular in the world for foreign direct investment, efforts are being made to create a future where Ireland is held in a similarly high status for corporate governance.
Labour market data backs up this intent, where this year we saw an overwhelming 87% of ESG-related job vacancies in Ireland be for Corporate Governance roles.
In fact, the first half of 2021 saw 300+ firms post positions for Corporate Governance specialists – with over 60% of these being for senior positions within a company.
Professional Services dominated the hiring front – representing 34.2% of overall Corporate Governance hiring.
“Over the last decade, we have seen a significant shift in the way that businesses approach social responsibility – with ESG making its way rapidly up the priority list,” Campbell explained.
“In 2019, the Global Reporting Initiative revealed that 93% of the world’s largest companies by revenue already report on their ESG performance. That these corporations believe it is important to publish their work in this area reflects how central ESG has become to the way some of the larger multi-national corporations have started conducting their businesses.”
Why ESG is important from an employment perspective:
- Reputation: Businesses which are failing to meet the expected ESG performance standards should expect to see a knock-on impact on their reputation. As a workforce strategy, ESG has become a competitive advantage in attracting and retaining talent; numerous studies have shown that, when weighing up potential employers, millennials are hugely influenced by how a business responds to and tackles social issues.
- Productivity: Companies with a strong ESG and labour relations proposition have better productivity. Addressing the widening gap between executive and workforce pay is also directly linked to productivity. Fairer incentive structures can help drive an inclusive culture and employee engagement, which in turn, can boost productivity.
- Value: Almost all investors and stakeholders are now alive to ESG performance, and want to see not just short-term plans but also how the core business model incorporates and deals with these issues in the long term. Businesses that do not have an ESG and labour relations agenda will find themselves struggling to find investment from savvy backers, who recognise the need to manage these risks and promote compliance.
- International standards: While many countries operate in markets with labour laws that provide relatively low levels of protection to employees, businesses will no longer be able to rely on their geographical location. There are international frameworks that set out expected employment standards across the world by which non-governmental organisations, investors, other stakeholders and the media are now judging businesses. This includes: the UN Global Compact (a sustainability initiative with around 12,000 corporate participants and stakeholders from nearly 160 countries); the International Labour Organisation Conventions and Declarations; the International Bill of Human Rights and the OECD guidelines.
- Legal compliance: The ability to investigate ESG breaches and issue fines has significantly increased. For example, gender pay gap reporting is now a legal requirement in Ireland for companies with more than 250 employees and similar legislation applies in the UK, Australia, and California. While the level of penalties vary, considerably from country to country, the willingness to impose top-level fines has increased across the board.