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Vindi Banga, a Partner at private equity firm Clayton, Dubilier & Rice, wrote about the private equity perspective on ESG for the Davos Agenda:

“…private equity has a perception problem. It’s known for its ability to drive operational improvement, especially growth and productivity, which can fuel attractive returns for its endowment, foundation and pension fund investors.  But I believe the flip side to such investment success is the incorrect perception that the asset class is purely oriented toward the short-term, overlooking the evidence that many private equity managers build in long-term value aligned with ESG objectives.

Private equity understands the imperative of operating successfully with consumers and customers, partnering with suppliers, working with regulators and NGOs and building a diverse, healthy, safe and productive employee base and culture… I believe such firms can incorporate ESG into their business-building tool kit – as much as growth, productivity and cost reduction. And they recognize when this is done well, it could lead to an ESG-embedded value multiple, just as firms talk of high growth companies securing a growth multiple.”

Banga’s comments are spot on. There are other opinions as he references. As this article from The Economist indicates, some believe that private equity’s reduced regulatory disclosure requirements incentivize secrecy and foster Gordon Gekko-style tunnel vision – excluding ESG investment and change. Others less harsh argue that lack of ESG transparency eliminates an important pressure point for catalyzing change and business innovation that advances ESG.

Private equity has become a major force in fossil fuels/energy – this was a big topic of discussion at COP26. Whether you view them as a force for good supporting a transition period to a low carbon economy or as something different, their presence and importance is growing as public companies accelerate divestitures of carbon intensive assets.

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The Editor

Lawrence Heim has been practicing in the field of ESG management for almost 40 years. He began his career as a legal assistant in the Environmental Practice of Vinson & Elkins working for a partner who is nationally recognized and an adjunct professor of environmental law at the University of Texas Law School. He moved into technical environmental consulting with ENSR Consulting & Engineering at the height of environmental regulatory development, working across a range of disciplines. He was one… View Profile