EDF Climate Corps Heads to Baltimore: Come see us at Net Impact

The EDF Climate Corps team is heading to Baltimore this week for the annual Net Impact Conference to begin fellow recruitment efforts for the 2013 summer fellowship. EDF Staff Elena Kocherovsky, David Fox, Jocelyn Climent and Liz Delaney are looking forward to connecting with prospective students and hosts, reconnecting with alumni fellows and attending the many sessions the conference has to offer.

With five years of successful fellowships at 200 impressive organizations, we are eager to continue the momentum into 2013. Every year since we started the program, the projects have delved deeper into the challenges of commercial energy efficiency. And each year we meet fantastic candidates at the Net Impact Conference who are up for the task of hunting for energy savings.

EDF Climate Corps will have a booth at the Expo all day Friday, October 26, and will also be hosting an evening reception that same day from 6:30 – 8:30 pm at the Alewife Restaurant, just a few blocks from the convention center. Any students or career services staff interested in learning more about the program and meeting the team are welcome to attend. EDF Climate Corps alumni are also encouraged to join us.

David Fox will also be moderating a panel discussion titled “Dismantling Barriers to Energy Efficiency: A How-To for Intrapreneurs”, with REI’s CSR manager, Kirk Meyers and Booz Allen Hamilton’s Manager of Sustainability, Elizabeth Wayt. The session will take place Friday, October 26 from 3 – 4:15 pm, and is open to professionals.

Tom Murray, Managing Director for EDF’s Corporate Partnerships Program, will also be speaking on a panel titled “Friend or Foe? Natural Gas Changing the Game for Climate and Energy” that Friday from 3 –4:15 pm, which is open to both students and professionals.

EDF Climate Corps is now accepting applications for 2013 hosts and fellows. Visit our website (www.edfclimatecorps.org) to learn more and join our mailing list to get updates on our fellow application process.

We hope to see you there!


Pfizer Cuts GHGs 20%, Employees Follow Suit

Fellow: Jason Sekhon, 2012 EDF Climate Corps fellow at Pfizer Inc., MBA/MS candidate at University of Michigan Erb Institute

Organization: Pfizer Inc.

Opportunity: Over 100,000 employees at the world's largest research-based pharmaceutical company
Summary: Pfizer is already well on its way to company-wide sustainability, and I'm glad to be contributing by writing employee engagement plan and EnergyStar strategies.

Pfizer: it’s a household name.  With over 100,000 employees, this massive corporation is world renowned for products from Advil to Viagra. But did you know that Pfizer just reduced its GHG emissions by 20% in only four years?

Yeah, neither did I.

When I joined EDF Climate Corps and learned that I would be working with Pfizer, I was ecstatic.  Armed with my newfound energy efficiency knowledge (courtesy of Climate Corps training), I could not wait to get started.  With a company this large, I thought it would be trivial to find millions of dollars worth of savings in no time. When I arrived, I learned how naïve I had been.

I was absolutely blown away by how much progress had already been made in energy efficiency.  Pfizer’s Energy and Climate Change (ECC) team, the group with which I would be working, had existed for nearly a decade and has a hand in everything from public reporting of emissions to bi-annual energy assessments for each of Pfizer’s nearly 100 sites.

My office was located in scenic Peapack, NJ, home to most of the ECC team. (Also just down the road from the US Olympic Equestrian team’s headquarters.)  In my first week on site, I learned just how essential sustainability and energy efficiency are to the facilities’ cultures.  Honestly, I spent the first month with Pfizer just asking questions and absorbing as much information as possible.

Although my original focus was siting energy assessments and more traditional energy efficiency projects, I noticed two key trends.

First, employees (known as "colleagues" at Pfizer) that have significant control over emissions-producing operations have a “lean” mentality toward energy.  The creed with these colleagues – building managers and manufacturing supervisors, for example – is "reduce energy consumption, and the emissions reduction will follow."

Though energy efficiency is ingrained in the culture of these colleagues, however, it isn't ingrained in the culture of Pfizer colleagues at large, presenting an energy efficiency opportunity through employee engagement.

Second, few people – colleague or non – were aware of the great strides Pfizer is taking toward reducing its environmental impact.

With these trends in mind, I focused on a project originally suggested by a colleague located in Pfizer’s Madison, NJ office – achieving ENERGY STAR certification at the Madison office.

ENERGY STAR is a credential only awarded to the most energy efficient buildings in the nation., and earning it at Pfizer's Madison office is now part of a campaign to engage all Pfizer colleagues in sustainability, not just those focused on site operations. We are coordinating this certification with a scheduled announcement of Pfizer’s recent 20% GHG reduction goals, as well as internal sustainability education, such as the recent information sessions on reducing travel through carpooling, "vanpooling" and videoconferencing Pfizer put on for its colleagues.

With these engagement tools, we can promote internal investment in the company's environmental accomplishments, further reducing our GHG emissions. This is not just a talking point.  Pfizer is seriously committed to reducing ingraining sustainability into its culture. With over 100,000 staff, this is a tremendous undertaking, but Pfizer is off to a great start.

Standing Or Elbow Room In The Energy Sector?

GridWeek 2012 convened earlier this month in Washington D.C., and as a first time attendee, I left breathless and hopeful – yet confused – by inexplicable lingering complacency. Unbeknownst to me, by agreeing to be a panelist in two sessions, I was setting up a comparative experiment. For the first panel, I spoke on “New Utility Business Models” to a packed room of the glimmer-eyed new energy intelligentsia, which is what makes GridWeek so exciting. In the later days of the conference, about a dozen GridWeek participants interspersed amongst a room of mostly empty seats to hear my panel presentation on “Smart Grid’s Role in New Air Quality Standards.”

It would seem that I, and the handful of attendees at the air quality panel, see the productive overlaps between air quality standards compliance, smart grid and new utility revenues. There are several ways that smart grid provides a value proposition for utilities faced with increasingly stringent air quality regulations, most recently the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS) rule. Here’s a short, but by no means comprehensive, list of both synergies and potential tensions:

  • Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS): Smart grid supports achieving higher and higher proportions of intermittent, non-dispatchable renewable electricity generation. Achieving high levels of RPS will be expensive unless we can use new strategies to manage intermittency and power quality. New pricing structures for utility services can provide incentives to invest on both sides of the meter, and open the door for historically hidden utility services (such as voltage regulation) to be priced and sold. For incumbent utilities, there is an opportunity to identify and price network services that traditionally have been bundled into rates.
  • Electric Vehicles (EV): EVs are an important new frontier for utilities, and like most frontiers, offer both promise and peril. Overloaded distribution networks might keep the utility engineers up at night, while the emerging new customer class has utility shareholders thinking like venture capitalists. Though still small in number, EVs are quickly driving utility planners and system operators toward a fork in the road. Do we provide safe reliable service to new and existing customers using expensive dirty methods of the past (i.e., more big power plants) or do we take a deep breath (of cleaner air) and trust in the power of the people by embracing distributed energy resources?
  • Distributed Energy Resources (DER): Rooftop solar, energy efficiency, and demand response, collectively known as distributed energy resources, unquestionably can provide the low cost, clean pathway towards both energy independence and a sustainable economy. However, DER is harder to plan and dispatch, and it threatens the traditional utility business models of incumbent institutions. In California, net energy metering policy has been an important ignition switch, fueled by the California Solar Roofs Initiative, but these successful policies need to evolve to achieve DER at larger scales. Again, the key is precisely pricing the goods and services on both sides of the meter. Utilities should be paid for power quality and storage services provided to owners of rooftop systems, while electricity from those rooftops should be priced fairly to provide incentive to invest.
  • Clean air standards: Oxides of nitrogen, particulate matter, acidifying compounds and carcinogens, such as mercury, are the power sector’s long-time emissions concerns. Across the nation, electricity generators must hold permits to pollute and tradable emissions allowances that must be acquired at nontrivial prices. Starting in 2013, California electricity generation that emits global warming pollution will have an associated cost –carbon allowances in the state’s cap-and-trade program. Already, polluters in Southern California must acquire emissions allowances for the RECLAIM program, and power plants nationwide must comply with the acid rain emissions allowance program established in the Federal Clean Air Act . Similarly, the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) program puts a price on carbon emissions for nine northeastern states, and the Western Climate Initiative is endeavoring to do the same for West Coast states and Canadian provinces. These programs use emissions allowances that are fungible and tradable, yet they represent real costs – and thus economic opportunity when avoided. Pollution pricing is changing business models throughout North America. But there is more to come. For example, improved environmental performance enabled by smart grid technologies, such as increasing DER, presents new avenues to meet air quality requirements. For the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and other oversight agencies, the ability to measure, verify and enforce DER is key to granting compliance credit, and such capabilities are increasingly cost-effective with smart grid deployment.
  • Consumer empowerment: The mobile phone revolution is a prelude to what may be possible once consumers and producers begin to see true pricing in the energy marketplace. While load-serving entities can find new revenues through services, consumers and entrepreneurs will be motivated by new ways to make a buck, or avoid spending bucks through unnecessary energy waste.

The new smart grid business frontier has, in fact, many frontiers. The California Public Utilities Commission conceived of an electricity ecosystem comprised of smart consumers, smart markets and smart utilities. Utilities are trying to find their new niche within the ever changing food web, and all ears are perked for new opportunities. That’s why only standing room was available in the business model panel session at Gridweek.

Meanwhile, in the air quality session of GridWeek, there was plenty of elbow room.EPA is considering flexible strategies for meeting new emissions standards for carcinogens. Many utilities are operating in permit constrained areas that fail to meet National Ambient Air Quality Standards. Enlightened utilities are seeing demand-side strategies as increasingly viable with smart meter deployment, and a means to improve returns to shareholders. Performance-based rate of return can be structured to both reduce sales of energy to customer and to improve utility earnings.

Gridweek revealed to me that many are educating themselves about new business opportunities, but precious few have the connected the dots to air quality improvements. If I could, I’d bet on the folks who attended both sessions.

This content was originally published on EDF's Energy Exchange blog.

TPG's New Sustainability Website Highlights Increased Transparency in Private Equity

Four years ago, as EDF was building up our Green Returns project, I landed a meeting with a leading private equity firm to discuss sustainability and possibly participating in our new initiatives. On the train into Manhattan, I looked up the firm's website on my smart phone to find the exact address for our meeting. But as was often the case in those days, there was no phone number and no address on the site — little more than the firm's name and logo. The message was, if you don't know how to contact us, we don't need to hear from you.

Contrast that experience with the changing state of transparency in private equity. Today, firms routinely list their portfolio companies, disclose total assets under management, post staff bios on their websites, and are beginning to report on their environmental, social and governance (ESG) activities.

The sustainability section of TPG's website is the latest example of growing ESG transparency in private equity.  The multi-page sustainability section lays out the firm's approach and goals, and highlights case studies, including:

  • Caesars Entertainment's energy efficient facilities and waste management initiative, which resulted in more than $17 million in annual run-rate savings across 110 projects, or a 163 million kilowatt-hour annual reduction in energy usage.
  • Avaya's redesign of ten product families in order to reduce the material and logistics footprint. Results included reduction in use of 6.3M ft2 fiber board, keeping 15.5 tons/188,000 ft3 of foam out of landfills and removing 3900 wooden pallets from the system; 19 percent drop in ocean or truck containers required and reduced fuel consumption by 17,800 gallons; and reduction in emissions over 210 tons of CO2.

I recently checked out the site and watched the sustainability video – “Results for the Present, Preparation for the Future” — that includes interviews with portfolio company chief executives about the importance of sustainability to creating value and saving money in their businesses.

"We started with sustainability as a built on," said David Scheible, president and CEO of Graphic Packaging. "It didn't really work. We did not make much progress. We realized that sustainability had to be something that we did across our business."

Harrah's CEO Gary Loveman spoke about the importance of scorecards and mechanisms for transparently comparing sustainability results across different business lines, and how the company found it relatively easy to stimulate extraordinary innovations in waste management and energy efficiency.

The video also features Carter Roberts, president and chief executive of the World Wildlife Fund, and Jonathan Lash, former president of the World Resources Institute, speaking about the competitive advantage enjoyed by corporations that make sustainability a priority.

"Long-term trends are going to require us to change," Lash said. "This is not about doing the right thing. This is about preparing for tomorrow's markets in order to succeed rather than be left behind."

As we've demonstrated through our projects and documented on this blog, the biggest asset managers in the world are now talking about sustainability, consider it a priority, and are increasingly transparent about their views and practices. The four largest private equity firms –Blackstone, Carlyle, KKR and TPG — are actively engaged on these issues.  Combined they have raised over $172 billion in the last 10 years (according to Preqin) and represent a substantial force when it comes to shifting the conversation.

This growing focus on sustainability and responsible investing reflects the dramatic change we've seen in stakeholder expectations, the economy and how institutional investors define value creation.

Unveiling the Secret Sauce for EDF Climate Corps

EDF founded Climate Corps in 2008 armed with a hunch and seven smart, young people. Five years later, we have placed nearly 300 elite graduate students in about 200 leading companies, cities and universities to uncover valuable energy savings.

Today, EDF announces Climate Corps' latest results.

In the course of each engagement, EDF Climate Corps fellows have found an average of $1 million in energy savings for their host organizations. Collectively, they’ve identified opportunities to cut the electricity use of 150,000 homes – that’s like the entire city of Pittsburgh – and avoid the carbon emissions of 200,000 cars every year.

People often ask us, “What’s the secret sauce? How do these guys find such monumental savings in just ten short weeks?”

After five years, we’ve mastered the recipe:

  1. Pick the Right People. It takes the right type of person to inspire. Our fellows come to us with strong professional backgrounds in engineering, finance, environmental management and other specialties. We hand-pick committed self-starters with entrepreneurial characteristics and strong analytical skills.
  1. Give Them the Right Tools. EDF Climate Corps fellows are carefully matched with their hosts, and each one goes through an intensive training before setting out. We equip our fellows with a customized onboarding tool that helps them zero in on key opportunities, identify the major stakeholders in the organization and understand how decisions are made around energy investments right off the bat.
  1. Stand on the Shoulders of Giants (Or: Use the Network).  Based on our experience working with hundreds of organizations, we’ve uncovered common types of barriers to energy efficiency in nearly every organization, and identified proven strategies for overcoming them.

That’s the three-step recipe behind EDF Climate Corps, and it’s why our fellows can consistently deliver big results in just one summer.

We’ve found that no matter where an organization is on its path to sustainability — whether it’s just getting off the starting blocks or already taking strong energy and climate initiatives — EDF Climate Corps can help bring it to the next level.

In tough economic times, when budgets are tight and our country’s energy future is unclear, EDF Climate Corps provides a valuable and highly effective way to help almost any organization save energy and save money now.

EDF Climate Corps is now accepting applications for companies, cities and universities to host a fellow in 2013. Find details about hosting a fellow at edfclimatecorps.org/hire-fellow or email info@edfclimatecorps.org.

This content is cross posted on Greenbiz.com.

Oak Hill Partnership Shows That Environmental Opportunities Abound for Middle-Market Private Equity Firms

Large private equity firms like The Carlyle Group (Carlyle) and KKR have clearly proven the environmental, financial and reputational benefits of undertaking environmental initiatives within their portfolios. Since we started our private equity work in 2008, however, smaller firms have repeatedly questioned whether it is really possible to replicate a similar approach at the majority of private equity firms that manage less capital and invest in smaller companies.

Now, we have the answer: a resounding yes.

Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) and Oak Hill Capital Partners (Oak Hill Capital) worked together to create a methodology that mapped Oak Hill Capital’s portfolio of 20 companies according to environmental impacts, financial opportunities and management readiness. Our goal is to create a model that other private equity firms can use to jumpstart their environmental initiatives by first focusing on the portfolio companies with the largest opportunities.  The initial success can then be utilized to build further buy-in and engagement throughout the firm and at additional portfolio companies.

The recently concluded pilot program at Oak Hill Capital identified more than $700,000 in annual energy cost savings and an annual CO2 emissions reduction of 2,900 metric tons at just a small number of facilities of three portfolio companies. The methodology found the biggest impact was likely at Dave & Buster’s, a leading operator of high volume entertainment/dining complexes; Jacobson Companies, the Des Moines, Iowa-based transportation and logistics firm; and ViaWest, one of the largest privately held data center, cloud computing and managed service providers in North America.

Going forward, Oak Hill Capital will share results at its annual CFO conference, expand on the three programs underway and begin working with additional management teams in its portfolio. Already, Oak Hill has used its annual CEO conference, its relationships with various operating consultants and its internal ESG committee, as well as EDF’s Climate Corps program, to further these efforts.

Dow Jones and Wall Street Journal media coverage of this successful collaboration highlights the growing interest that private equity firms and their institutional investors have in seeing firms incorporate this approach.

Embedding sustainability and making it stick

By Jos Hill, Sustainability Consultant, EDF

There’s nothing like an inspired workforce to boost a company’s productivity and returns. While many factors can affect job satisfaction, employees increasingly want to help the environment while on the job.

This summer, Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) gathered together sustainability leaders from 23 companies to discuss ways to embed sustainability into their employee’s jobs. Green teams are a common strategy to engage employees in a wide range of activities from greening the office to identifying ways to minimize waste across company facilities. Volunteer green teams exist in many companies, but these activities often compete with people’s formal role making it difficult to attract and sustain engagement.

One solution is to find ways to integrate sustainability into people’s jobs and some companies have come up with some creative ways to do so.

At Boeing, employees use “continuous improvement programs” to identify ways to improve company processes and products. Boeing employees also use the process to improve the company’s environmental performance. In order to integrate environmental continuous improvement into people’s jobs, Boeing’s environmental team has developed a tool that walks employees through a process to identify the environmental impacts of their job, ways to use their role to reduce these impacts and how to create continuous improvement projects to address the issues they have identified.

HP integrates sustainability across its whole workforce, regardless of role, by offering every employee four hours of company time per month to volunteer for an external or internal cause they are passionate about. Employees who enjoy making local connections can join HP’s Eco Advocate Program and represent HP’s sustainability work at customer sites or public events. A smart feature of this program is that it fosters individual leadership and skill development, while minimizing HP’s carbon footprint by deploying local staff to local events and this year HP has deployed approximately two to three Eco Advocates to local events every month.

To celebrate World Water Day this year, Levi Strauss & Co. employees became water conservationists and brand ambassadors by participating in the Go Water<Less™ Challenge:  They wore the same pair of Levi’s jeans for a week without washing them. Employees had great fun uploading more than 5,000 creative photos of themselves wearing their unwashed jeans each day and simultaneously increased internal awareness about global water issues – and the significance of Levi’s innovative Water<Less™ products that are manufactured using up to 96 percent less water than standard processes.

The key to this approach is to take the time to understand the different roles different employees play within a company and to figure out how each can add value both to the company – and the environment. With a slice of creativity, can we move beyond “volunteer green teams” to an era where everybody’s job supports sustainability.

Visit our case study database to see how EDF Climate Corps fellows are engaging employees to transform the way organizations use energy.

BSR Insight highlights environmental progress in private equity

When Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) first teamed up with leaders in the private equity industry four years ago, we were building on the learnings from over 20 years of partnerships with leading public companies.  However, as BSR’s recent blog points out, there are now new lessons learned from private equity firms that all companies can apply to their sustainability efforts.

Check out the post below that points to our work with KKR and Carlyle and other trends in the private equity industry.

Generating and Protecting Value Through Sustainability: Five Lessons From Private Equity

Even though credible sustainability initiatives serve as an engine of value creation, there are still critics who claim such efforts are more about public relations. Yet several prominent private equity firms—known for their rigorous focus on producing returns for investors—are emerging as sustainability leaders, particularly when it comes to integrating sustainability into investment decisions and management.

So how do leading private equity firms apply sustainability to generate and protect value, and what can other companies learn from that?

Through BSR’s work with private equity firms, we have identified five practices that highlight the potential for lagging firms to catch up, for leading firms to take bolder steps, and for companies in all sectors to realize the value of sustainability.

These practices are especially important in light of questions that have been raised recently during the U.S. presidential race about the role and responsibility of private equity firms in the economy. It is timely now to identify how private equity can integrate sustainability and stakeholder considerations to enhance value, and how the industry can engage with other sectors to create a more sustainable global economy.

Continue reading onBSR Insight.


How To Stay Clean In A Dirty World: A Vision For A Smarter, Healthier Supply Chain

Most large corporations know that their supply chains are now visible. When a factory explosion in China impacts parts shipments to Apple in the United States, for example, it makes the news. Also, as consumers become more informed, potential for brand loyalty increases for those organizations reducing their harmful emissions and their carbon footprints through more efficient, money-saving supply chain management.

Bottom line? Staying clean is not only healthier, it’s smarter for business. Earlier this week at a Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals conference, I explained more about this concept and suggested steps toward improving goods movement operations.

Why It Matters

Freight emissions are growing rapidly.

Freight transport is the single largest source of corporate carbon emissions, accounting for 15 percent of all emissions. In the U.S. alone, emissions from freight have been projected to increase 74 percent from 2005 to 2035. China is expected to increase its use of freight transportation fuels by 4.5 percent per year from 2008 to 2035. Over the coming decades, freight transport will be among the fastest-growing source of emissions, projected to increase 40 percent globally.

Retailers and other manufacturers exercise significant control over the environmental footprint of supply chain logistics operations. Their decisions on where products are made and stored, how they are designed and packaged, and how much time is allotted for transit have a tremendous impact on carbon and other air pollutants and cost efficiency.

These shippers have the most to gain from an increasingly cleaner and cost-efficient freight system and they can reap the greatest financial rewards from increasing efficiency. On top of that, public perception improves from an organizational “good environmental steward” image, increasing the brand loyalty odds in your favor.

Five Principles For Improving Supply Chain Efficiency And Sustainability 

EDF created five principles shippers can follow to enable a less polluting, more carbon-efficient freight supply chain. These are based on documented case studies in our Smart Moves report, which shows how new technology and thinking are unlocking a raft of previously unattainable economic and environmental efficiencies in the vast commercial shipping industry.

  1. Support “Hot Spot” Clean Up. Older diesel equipment without the most modern emission controls release emissions that are hazardous to human health. In fact, the World Health Organization recently declared that diesel emissions can cause cancer in humans. People who live or work near logistics hubs, such as ports and rail yards are exposed to higher levels of these emissions, and are thus at higher risk for harmful health outcomes. As these emissions are generated by the demand for freight, shippers are increasingly being held responsible for cleaning-up “hot spots” of diesel pollution. One way for shippers to make a difference is to support the adoption of cleaner equipment in these hot spots.
  2.  Choose the most carbon-efficient mode possible.  Different modes of transportation emit different amounts of carbon per ton-mile. Planes, for instance, emit 47 times more than container ships, and trucks emit six times more than trains. Clearly differentiating cargo that needs to be expedited from that which doesn’t is step one in a carbon-efficient supply chain.
  3. Collaborate with other shippers. Are there opportunities to merge your warehouses and distribution assets with other companies? Ship products directly to the client and avoid warehousing altogether? Match “back-haul” lanes with other shippers to improve efficiency? All of these strategies are being used successfully in today’s retail industry.
  4. Redesign your own network for efficiency. New logistics tools can help to optimize warehouse locations, shipping routes, and modal connections.
  5. Get the most out of each move. Set goals for trailer utilization, look for new ways to combine loads, and use the best new software to optimize orders. Redesigning and consolidating packaging can also increase utilization while decreasing damage.

Increasing Sustainability While Cutting Costs

In the near term, the principles outlined above have significant cost and emissions reduction potential. Collaboration alone has been projected to be able to cut emissions 30 percent while reducing costs by 25 percent. Mode shifting and improved container utilization combined can cut tens of millions of metric tons of emissions from the U.S. freight system each year.

EDF believes that it is vital for shippers to lead the way to freight sustainability. A key way to participate is by adopting freight-specific goals as part of an organization’s sustainability objectives. Here’s a suggestion: Sit down with your logistics team and explore the possibilities:

  • Can you improve carbon-efficiency by ton-mile by 25 percent over the next five years?
  • Can you double or triple the percentage of your goods that use intermodal transit?
  • Are you able to work with your partners in ports to support that rapid turnover of heavy-polluting trucks and other equipment?

The dramatic growth in goods movement clearly presents major challenges in efforts to minimize the effects of global climate change and lessen widespread harm to public health. However, it is possible to significantly reduce freight emissions from today’s levels, while continuing to grow our economy while improving the cost-efficiency of freight transport.

This content is cross-posted on EDF's Texas Clean Air Matters blog.

BSR Report Takes Stock of Private Equity Industry's ESG Reporting

A recent report by BSR on the level of environmental, social and governance (ESG) reporting in the private equity industry provides a useful benchmark of the progress that has been made, as well as the ground that remains to be covered.

BSR authors Laura Gitman and Charlotte Bancilhon reviewed the ESG reporting practices of the 10 largest U.S. private equity firms and the 10 largest U.K. private equity firms and made recommendations for improvement. The report concluded that the industry lags behind other financial services sectors in ESG reporting, with only two of those firms surveyed — KKR and Carlyle, both EDF partners — publishing a dedicated ESG report.

Still, BSR noted that 65 percent of the firms reviewed do release some information about their ESG management approach. This comes at a time when "private equity firms are facing increasing scrutiny and greater demand for transparency from investors and stakeholders at large," the report noted. "To secure long-term success, the PE sector needs to adopt a more transparent and open approach to demonstrating how it contributes to social and economic welfare."

At EDF, we were pleased to be included in BSR's research and quoted in the report — and to see the findings covered by writer Thomas Duffell in Private Equity Manager. We agree with the report's conclusion that reporting could be beefed up. Indeed, we fully support enhanced reporting by private equity and we do expect it to spread and become more standardized. Applying the industry's longstanding expertise and rigor to ESG efforts can only improve portfolio company operations and add value for investors.

BSR noted that voluntary initiatives around transparency and disclosure are emerging in the sector and that "ESG factors are increasingly seen as fund value drivers through performance improvements and operational efficiencies, such as eco-efficiencies in portfolio companies." In this competitive fundraising environment, strong ESG management could be a differentiating factor for PE firms.

Noteworthy highlights in the report include the practice of Dutch pension fund APG to define requirements of general partners' ESG disclosure during the fund life, before investing. Also, KKR holds regular ESG roundtables with limited partners and portfolio companies to discuss each of the firm's ESG management efforts.

BSR recommends that firms:

  • Use materiality assessment;
  • Develop a long-term reporting strategy;
  • Establish reporting targets and
  • Collaborate with the industry to develop a reporting framework for the entire sector.

Similar recommendations and good additions to the best practices are highlighted in the recent Malk-EDF study on ESG in private equity.

View full BSR report [PDF].