Are more and more CR and sustainability folks moving East?

Is it me, or are more and more of your professional contacts taking jobs in Shanghai, Beijing, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Melbourne, Bangkok and the like?

Between a friend and I we recently worked out that we knew more than a dozen CSR and sustainability professionals who have taken jobs in the cities above.

Of course, the whole “the West is on the slide, East is the future” argument is playing a role here.

One mid-level manager told me he just couldn’t see enough opportunities to make it worth staying in Europe compared with opportunities out there.

We’re seeing the rising wealth, plus concerns about supply chain resilience and market access, driving these changes. Also, the big consultancies are hiring, presumably in advance of, or perhaps because of, demand. That’s definitely playing a role.

Also, I may be wrong, but from what I hear, the money being offered here and in Europe, given costs, is not particularly impressive:

80K for a senior CSR manager in a pharma company. 100K plus bonus/benefits for a Government and Stakeholder relations job in a mining firm. (Needing 15 years+ experience, that’s not very good money)

In many ways this shift to the East is a good thing. I’ve always looked upon the whole ‘rebalancing’ debate in a positive way.

It’s about time, globally speaking, more wealth was shared out.

Of course that has serious ramifications for the environment as we know.

That’s the problem.

It’s also a good thing because for far too long Asia has lagged the West in perceptions of who leads on corporate sustainability. Just look at the same old names that came up again in a recent survey.

It would be nice to think this new wave of managers and heads of CR can deliver some leadership from Asian-based companies.

Of course, it’s much more complicated than that as we all know. Culture, media, NGOs and civil society demands matter as much as wealth for companies to move forward on sustainability.

But it’s clearly a good sign for the ‘movement’ / profession / general progress, that we are seeing this shift.

From the 6000 or so of you that regularly read this blog, I’d like to know if US-based readers have noticed any similar such trends. I’d expect it to be less, but then I could well be wrong about that.


  1. Jack_C

    As you know Toby, I am one of those folk you talk about. Yes, it's true the allure of the East is quite hard to resist when you compare the market in the UK/Europe. I spent a year looking for global roles based out of Europe and with 10years experience the kind of opportunities and money was very disappointing (examples I was shown were offering less than what you quote). Not that it's about the money (of course, this is sustainability…) – but the opportunities were very very thin, and obviously the higher up the tree you go, the fewer there are. My experience was that the well known names; the VPs, the CSOs, the Heads of.. weren't moving (except for a few of the old-guard that did..), so that created a back log. I also think the market is bearing too much and represents a bubble of sorts; it's saturated with frankly dodgy business cases for full time head count, and it seems that everyone is jumping on the CR-job bandwagon. Quality will out of course, but in the absence of opportunities, you have to look elsewhere. I would say that many of the countries here are at the bottom of the S-shaped curve, about to go ballistic – DJSI is about to launch it's new Emerging Markets Index, so you should see a new wave of companies aiming to showcase how sustainability is becoming more important. I would say that anyone prepared to come out needs to do their research well, especially on the costs. Unless you're lucky enough to get an expat deal (unlikely in the current market, in anything but the highest paying sectors such as mining or oil & gas) then you can expect a 10-15% salary drop in real terms. The other element to this game is of course 'What happens when I want to come back to the UK?' – and that's something I haven't figured out yet!

  2. Jack, thanks for this. Very much appreciate both the frankness and the useful insight.

    Hope all is going well with you in KL!


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