Private Equity 4.0: Using ESG to Create More Value with Less Risk

A growing number of private equity firms have responded to the increased focus on climate change, social issues, and technology disruption, write the authors in this Spring issue article, by broadening their corporate mission to encompass all important stakeholders, as well as their limited partners. And in the process, the management of ESG risks and pursuit of ESG opportunities have become increasingly fundamental to the staying power and value creation potential of PE firms by reducing the risk of their investments, discovering new sources of growth, and increasing their resilience to changes in the political and regulatory environment.

This article tells the story of how the Nordic PE firm, Summa Equity, has turned its ESG approach into a core competence and a source of competitive advantage that has enabled the firm to distinguish itself from its competitors and bring about significant improvements in the financial performance of its portfolio companies while providing benefits for their stakeholders. Using the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals to guide them, the firm invests in companies they perceive to be addressing major environmental or social challenges in an innovative and commercially successful way. This has led to investments in significant growth opportunities in areas such as health care, education, waste management, and acquaculture. And the firm’s returns to its investors have been high enough—and the perceived social benefits large enough—that the firm recently closed its second fund (which was significantly oversubscribed) for 650 million euros, and received the ESG award at the 2019 Private Equity Awards in London.