The rising need for ESG and sustainability professionals in the corporate and financial sectors
Ellen WeinrebFounder, Weinreb Group Sustainability Recruiting
In a recent interview for Infosys, Joel Makower of GreenBiz spoke with Ellen Weinreb, the founder of the Weinreb Group, a boutique search firm focusing on ESG and sustainability.
Weinreb said that her firm has surveyed chief sustainability officers over the past 12 years and has found that the competencies associated with being a strong leader is the ability to influence change and also "being able to talk to different leaders using the language of those leaders." She also said that because the job is becoming more technical, people working with the chief sustainability officer need expertise in areas such as climate, data, and reporting, as well as legal and compliance.
For sustainability and ESG hires in the finance sector, Weinreb said firms are looking for candidates who have experience with deals and investing. "The finance ESG leaders are involved in deals, they're involved in fundraising, so there's processes to the deal flow," she pointed out.
More generally, she said "there is still very much demand for talent" in the ESG and sustainability space. "It's specifically around expertise in climate and climate accounting – bringing the reporting data into the CFO's office so that it's auditable and verified. And there's a lot going on around systems to verify that data. We're seeing a ramp-up in the jobs and the positions... So net jobs are up and at the same time, there are factors that exist today that didn't exist a year ago that are creating less of a demand, even though there's still quite a lot of demand." Weinreb sees growing opportunity for potential employees around company commitments to net zero by the year 2040 or 2050.
Within companies, Weinreb said she's seeing chief sustainability officers and leaders "having an easier time getting senior leaders at the company to listen to them and support them and partner with them." These officers and leaders are also benefiting by reporting directly to board committees, like the nominating governance committee, or there's a specific ESG or sustainability committee. She said board members are "keeping an eye on whether this should be a 2040 or 2050 commitment, and they're getting involved in some of these top-level decisions, and they're also drivers of change."
Another trend that's unfolded over the past decade, said Weinreb, is that sustainability strategy is becoming more aligned with the business strategy. "These sustainability officers really understand the business and understanding how what they're doing is adding value to the business in addition to the planet," she said. Sustainability officers are helping to ensure that their employers communicate in a way that's transparent, honest, and authentic.
Weinreb also said that there's been an evolution in where sustainability officers sit within companies. Twelve years ago, many of them reported into marketing, which she said is no longer true, since it gives rise to allegations of "greenwashing." Today, sustainability officers tend to work closely with legal and compliance officers and often report to them.