The primary factors driving the remarkable growth of private equity have been the industry’s attractive and stable returns in combination with its active ownership model. Nevertheless, critics have been questioning whether the PE industry can maintain its historic returns, and challenging its fee and incentive structures as well as its notable lack of transparency and diversity. And the alleged systemic effects of the industry on social problems like income inequality and climate change have become large enough to create a perceived threat to PE’s long-term “license to operate.”
In this article, the authors discuss the commitment of EQT, the publicly listed and Stockholm-headquartered private markets firm (and eighth largest PE fundraiser in the world), to the “future-proofing” of both its portfolio companies and the company itself. The company envisions itself as undertaking a “journey” toward sustainability and positive impact and, in so doing, furnishing a model that other PE firms might find useful in helping “future-proof” the entire industry. As part of that commitment, EQT recently published a “Statement of Purpose” signed by its the board of directors that focuses a societal impact lens on its entire portfolio of companies and assets, reinforces its public commitments to diversity and other “clean and conscious” practices, and aims to leverage digital technologies to enhance financial returns and real-world outcomes. Transparency and a mindset focused on achieving positive impact are the keys to PE’s earning high and stable returns and to securing its long-term license to operate.