CSR » How the renewed commitment to ESG in accountancy and finance is changing the finance recruitment landscape

How the renewed commitment to ESG in accountancy and finance is changing the finance recruitment landscape

How the renewed commitment to ESG in accountancy and finance is changing the finance recruitment landscape

The accountancy and finance landscape has seen a shift in recent years, with promising signs of recruitment recovery driven by a renewed focus on environmental, social, and governance (ESG) and diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) strategies.

Last year, the Budget, rising interest rates and a widespread return to the office created an uncertain market for the financial recruitment industry, but ESG and DEI have emerged as common focuses for businesses for the year ahead.

Subdued but positive: looking at the current landscape

In the last year, salaries have stabilised from the 30-40% uplift seen in 2022. Employers in the accountancy and finance space are becoming a lot more cautious about hiring, as they prioritise finding the right person for the role rather than just filling a position.

This means hiring processes are naturally taking longer, roles are vacant for longer periods of time, and workload is being distributed across current staff while organisations search for the right candidate to take over the responsibilities.

Comparing the overall market from 2022 to 2023, the hiring approach of organisations has differed. There was mass hiring taking place in 2022 and a tougher 2023 saw companies seeking replacement hires, upskilling, or distributing responsibilities across the team.

The tech industry had the most challenging year of all our markets, with layoffs at big tech companies like Amazon and Facebook. Yet, towards the end of last year, the industry saw a resurgence and more people applied for tech roles, offering positive signs for hiring this year.

Focus on ESG and policies

ESG information is increasingly in demand, with reporting becoming mandatory under new requirements from the International Sustainability Standards Board (ISSB), the European Financial Reporting Advisory Group (EFRAG), and the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

With more requirements being introduced in 2025, organisations have 2024 to prepare and to learn more about topics beyond those we are already familiar with, like climate.

Nature is an area that companies are being encouraged to delve into by the Taskforce on Nature-related Financial Disclosures (TNFD).

Alongside ESG regulatory standards, companies need assurance from external ESG experts on vital topics like greenhouse gases and environmental metrics to make the best sustainable decisions for their business.

Finance teams have a huge part to play in collecting accurate ESG data for the business to share with investors.

Understanding what spectrum of metrics are most important and beneficial to the business is a great place to start. It’s about working out what has the biggest impact on customers and competitors, then finding the right tools to collect this data effectively.

Accountancy and finance’s commitment to improve diversity 

23% of respondents to an accountancy industry survey we conducted in 2023 were from minority ethnic backgrounds. While this percentage stands strong, organisations need to implement strategies to ensure all their people feel included and have an equal chance of progressing.

When hiring and promoting, businesses must base their decisions on objective data. Hiring on ‘gut instinct’ is fine as far as it goes, but it can lead to hiring someone based on a personal, longstanding view of what makes a good employee, rather than bringing in someone who can add a new perspective to your team.

Organisations must identify gaps in their talent pools and work with their talent attraction teams to resolve these on a local basis. Setting DEI targets for your leaders can also help, as it ensures that their progression depends on the inclusivity of their leadership.

Hiring the right people to strengthen a company’s ESG function isn’t easy, but experience in finance often provides the perfect foundation for a role in ESG. A proactive candidate who can influence across the business and stay up to date with the ever-changing world of ESG is essential in preparing the business for upcoming changes in regulation and policies.

The impact ESG will have on our future

Despite an uncertain market, businesses are recognising the importance of ESG, with investors assessing sustainability when looking at business value and growth. This means organisations need staff adept in navigating both the financial and ESG landscape.

Encouraging conversation and trying out different ESG reporting strategies is a great way for investors and businesses to become more confident with ESG and what is expected from them. As a leader, being open to learning new strategies and approaches is the first step, and arguably the most important, in navigating this evolving ESG landscape.

Organisations are increasingly focused on improving diversity and environmental policies, and this has created a gap for skilled candidates from all backgrounds to help drive the sector for years to come.

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