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Demand for ESG jobs expected to hit record high next year

Environment, social and governance key as firms face ‘more scrutiny than ever’

Environment, social and governance (ESG) is being treated with increasing importance by business leaders, with 90 per cent of the country's leading firms considering ESG in their top-level strategic decisions, according to a report by global recruitment firm Robert Walters.

The report, called Environment, Social, and Governance: Mindset Over Must, found that there were a record number of job vacancies in Ireland this year centred around ESG – with more anticipated in 2022, according to Robert Walters.

The report also found that 93 per cent of Ireland’s large corporations have a dedicated sustainability lead, while 71 per cent of Irish professionals will decline job offers if companies have poor diversity and inclusion initiatives.

Professional services (31 per cent), financial services (22 per cent) and technology (20 per cent) are biggest recruiters for ESG personnel.

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There have been more than 1,600 new jobs created this year around ESG – with the number of people moving into these roles increasing by 13 per cent to now represent upwards of 31,000 professionals in Ireland.

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 per cent by 2030.

Scrutiny

Louise Campbell, managing director or Robert Walters Ireland, said: “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. 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, IT, marketing, finance, research, legal 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.”

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 many of the biggest organisations are already ahead of the game – with 93 per cent of Ireland’s largest firms already having a dedicated sustainability lead within the firm, of which 66 per cent are at the executive level.

Hiring

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.

The consumer goods and services sector that has been the most active when hiring for environment or sustainability experts – accounting for a third of all job vacancies.

Hiring for equality and diversity specialists represents a fifth of all ESG-related job vacancies in Ireland, 44 per cent of which has been for senior roles.

This is no surprise as campaigners and business associations look to get diversity and inclusion (D&I) back on the agenda after many believe it took a back seat during the pandemic.

However, more needs to be done. For roles where holders are responsible for driving business revenue or strategy, women made up less than a sixth of applicants in Ireland. Just more than 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 more than 70 per cent 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 increase their D&I personnel in the new year to aid retention and continue attracting the best talent.