Private Equity Industry Sees New Opportunities

All of our partnerships are about transforming industries, not just about the work we can accomplish with a single partner. That's why Gwen Ruta's participation in the Dow Jones webinar series is such an important outcome of our work with private equity giant Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co (KKR).

Historically, the private equity industry has excelled at improving the financial and operational performance of portfolio companies. Thursday's webinar builds on that track record and proves a new opportunity to build value. Gwen, and the head of KKR Capstone, Dean Nelson, join others to discuss strategies that private equity firms are deploying to increase value and profit while also reducing energy and waste at portfolio companies. This marks an important shift from discussing environmental performance as a liability to seeing it as an opportunity. The more we talk about the link between good environmental management and good business management, and the more we prove it, the quicker private equity firms will adopt existing best practices. And, knowing them, it won't be very long at all before we can look to private equity firms for the next round of environmental innovations.

Check out Gwen's presentation, Read more

Who said what to whom about the KKR pilot results

If you've been following our blog, by now you've seen Elizabeth and Ken in action talking about our project at a conference, and Tom has told you how we actually made it happen.

As exciting as this project is, I guess I shouldn't be surprised by the attention the Green Portfolio Project announcement has gotten, but I am. It's interesting to see the nuggets of information various journalists have picked out of our release and interviews with the experts:

  • The guys over at Triple Pundit must have had a good chat with our friends at KKR and were the first to report some details that didn't make it into the press release – such as the inclusion of Sungard in the next round of implementation and a projection of the number of companies that will be participating in the program by the end of the year (46).
  • The New York Times beat the Wall Street Journal's Deal Journal blog to the punch – getting a post featuring a pic of Henry Kravis on both Deal Book and Green, Inc. yesterday.
  • After meeting with Gwen yesterday afternoon and seeing the coverage already being generated, Marc Gunther decided not to delay in posting on his blog, where he called us "a bunch of young and likely underpaid environmentalists." He also expressed support for our argument that sometimes it just takes "looking at company operations through the fresh lens of sustainability" to achieve benefits that are good for the bottom line and the environment.
  • On the way to the airport to head back to Boston, Gwen chatted with about how this project has just "scratched the surface of the efficiencies that can be achieved."

And this is just a selection of the coverage the project has received. Personally, I can't wait to see what successes we have to announce when the project celebrates its one-year anniversary in May. Stay tuned!


  • Gwen tells Marc Gunther "it's about unleashing the innovation of the company's workforce" in a podcast for The Energy Collective.  She also talks about how the KKR partnership started and how it got these results.
  • Tom Murray talks with Tilde Herrera on GreenBiz Radio about lessons for businesses trying to make their way through a slumping economy.

Great start, but just the beginning…

3 companies, 12 months, $16 million dollars, 25,000 metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions, 3,000 tons of paper use, and 650 tons of solid waste.

For the past few weeks we've been on phone calls and in meetings with project teams from KKR, US Foodservice, PRIMEDIA, and Sealy to review and refine these numbers for today's announcement.

Since the underlying premise for this project is "you manage what you measure" we had to get these numbers right. We did and the initial results are really impressive. Especially considering that they are adjusted to reflect only those business and environmental benefits that were achieved through improved efficiency from 2007 to 2008, as opposed to changes in volume or sales due to the current economic downturn.

Some people predicted that environmental initiatives would be an early casualty of this recession, but more and more companies are coming to understand that when you're focusing on every penny, you can't afford to let any opportunity to cut costs or improve efficiency go by. These companies found 1.6 billion pennies – a lot more than sofa change.

I think today's results demonstrate clearly the kinds of benefits that can be achieved through systematic environmental measurement and management, but its just the start. With over 1,000 private equity firms in the U.S. and far more portfolio companies, there's a tremendous opportunity to take these results to scale.

We'll be sharing our ideas, tools, and case studies for how to make this happen in the weeks and months ahead.

It's Green on Both Sides

When private equity firms, which are notoriously unsentimental, get serious about 'going green,' then you know the business case has become truly compelling.

Marc Gunther, Biz and NGOs: too cozy?, November 14, 2008

How often do you see a director of one of the most influential private equity firms in the world in a video with a non-profit-employed "treehugger"? Certainly not every day, but maybe it'll become a little more common from now on.

Ken Mehlman of KKR (Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co.) and I spoke in November at the annual Net Impact conference at my alma mater, the Wharton School. I was there for a couple reasons, most significantly this week*, that our partnership with KKR was reaching an important milestone: the conclusion of our pilot project phase. Read more

Good News: Fleets Measuring Greenhouse Gases

Five years ago, Environmental Defense Fund set out to change the way commercial fleets are managed. So, I was pleased to read in Automotive Fleet a recent summary of greenhouse gas reduction programs available from the leading fleet management companies (FMCs). The article reviews the programs of the seven largest fleet management companies. It reports that all of them offer their clients a service to measure greenhouse gas emissions and assistance in identifying ways to reduce the emissions. Several programs also help companies find greenhouse gas offsets for those emissions they haven't yet reduced.

This focus on greenhouse gas emissions is a significant and welcome shift from when we started working with commercial fleets. Back then the fleets that had environmental initiatives mostly had limited fuel or technology specific goals. We set out to encourage fleets to adopt a comprehensive, greenhouse gas management approach defined by measuring emissions and setting and achieving ghg reduction goals. Read more