New data unveiled by global job matching and hiring platform, Indeed, indicates a notable shift in priorities among UK workers towards roles that contribute positively to society and the environment.

With 57 percent of respondents considering jobs impacting society more important than at the start of their careers, and 55 percent expressing a similar sentiment for environmentally focused roles, the findings underscore a growing appetite for sustainability-related employment.

The survey, encompassing over 1,000 workers and job seekers alongside 500 employers, highlights a burgeoning demand for sustainability roles.

Notably, a striking 116 percent increase in ESG/sustainability-related job postings on Indeed between 2019 and 2024 signals a significant uptick in employer interest in these positions.

Despite the surge in interest, the transition to sustainability careers faces hurdles. A quarter of respondents (26%) express willingness to accept a pay cut to pursue roles in environmental sustainability, with 44 percent open to retraining for such positions.

However, concerns over barriers to entry persist, with 42 percent of respondents citing impediments ranging from geographical constraints to perceived employer reluctance to acknowledge transferable skills.

Geographical location is a barrier

Geographical location emerges as a significant barrier, with 42 percent of respondents feeling held back by their residence. The disparity is evident across regions, with individuals in the West Midlands (47%) expressing greater difficulty in accessing sustainability roles compared to those in the South East (33%).

Moreover, financial considerations pose challenges, as one in five respondents lament the scarcity of paid positions in the sector. Additionally, a perception persists among more than half (52%) that ESG or sustainability roles primarily consist of volunteer or fundraising positions. Even when paid opportunities arise, inadequate remuneration dissuades a third (33%) of potential applicants.

Interestingly, generational disparities in willingness to accept reduced pay for sustainability roles are apparent, with 42 percent of 18-24 year-olds expressing readiness compared to only 18 percent of 45-54 year-olds.

Both job seekers and employers alike voice concerns over greenwashing, with 20 percent citing apprehension over misrepresented sustainability credentials. This underscores the need for transparent and authentic sustainability initiatives in recruitment processes.

Moreover, a misalignment between employer requirements and candidate qualifications persists, with 29 percent of employers lamenting a dearth of candidates possessing requisite skills. Conversely, 44 percent of respondents feel that employers do not adequately value transferable skills.

Cause for optimism

Despite these challenges, there is cause for optimism. Of respondents endeavouring to transition to sustainability roles, more have succeeded (32%) than failed (27%). However, younger applicants encounter greater difficulty, with 35 percent of 18-34 year-olds reporting unsuccessful transitions compared to 19 percent of those aged 45 and above.

Looking ahead, there is optimism surrounding the growth of ESG-related jobs, with 48 percent of respondents anticipating increased availability following new EU legislation on sustainability metrics. However, concerted efforts are needed to realise this potential, with nearly half of businesses lacking sustainability functions expressing no plans to establish one.

Jack Kennedy, Senior Economist at Indeed, emphasises the importance of leveraging this momentum to address climate change effectively. He advocates for greater education, investment, and incentives to support both job seekers and employers in the recruitment process, ultimately bolstering the UK’s journey towards Net Zero.

As societal, investor, and regulatory expectations continue to evolve, the shift towards sustainability-related employment represents not only a response to pressing environmental concerns but also an opportunity to foster a more resilient and inclusive workforce.

In conclusion, as the clamour for sustainability jobs grows louder, concerted action is imperative to overcome barriers and harness the full potential of this burgeoning sector.





Amelia Brand is the Editor for HRreview, and host of the HR in Review podcast series. With a Master’s degree in Legal and Political Theory, her particular interests within HR include employment law, DE&I, and wellbeing within the workplace. Prior to working with HRreview, Amelia was Sub-Editor of a magazine, and Editor of the Environmental Justice Project at University College London, writing and overseeing articles into UCL’s weekly newsletter. Her previous academic work has focused on philosophy, politics and law, with a special focus on how artificial intelligence will feature in the future.