Last year, Oak Hill Capital Partners released its inaugural environmental, social, and governance (ESG) performance report. While you may have read about similar reports from private equity firms like KKR and The Carlyle Group on this blog, Oak Hill Capital’s report was significant because it were first among U.S. middle-market private equity firms to publicly release an ESG performance report. In doing so, the firm increased transparency and offered other mid-market firms a blueprint to follow. Last week, it issued its second annual report, offering an inside look at the firm’s progress to date.
A comprehensive approach
In its new report, Oak Hill Capital outlines its approach to ESG management, measuring progress in integration, results and leadership: three of the key building blocks for a successful ESG management program that are included in our ESG Management Tool for private equity.
For Oak Hill Capital, integration refers to the ways it embeds ESG management practices across the firm’s operations to ensure it can best deliver results at portfolio companies. Key examples from the report include its responsible investment policy, incorporation of ESG in due diligence, and its recently becoming a signatory of the United Nations Principles for Responsible Investment (UNPRI). Management of environmental performance is also woven into the management of the firm, through its ESG Committee, which is made up of senior executives and chaired by Oak Hill Capital’s general counsel.
Results speak to how the firm evaluates the ESG performance of potential new investments and how it tracks and supports the sustainability efforts of portfolio companies. This year’s report includes how the firm considered ESG factors in the due diligence process of three new investments and how existing portfolio companies have benefited from the firm’s expertise in ESG issues. One example is an energy efficiency project Oak Hill Capital initiated at its portfolio company, Dave and Buster’s, with Entouch Controls, a leading energy management solution for restaurants and schools.
Lastly, Oak Hill Capital takes a broad approach to leadership, both within the industry and in the communities in which it operates: promoting lessons learned among similarly-sized firms, as well as engaging employees in business-focused mentorship opportunities.
A diverse portfolio of sustainability initiatives Read more
Ken Mehlman, Global Head of Public Affairs, KKR
Last week in Atlanta, Kohlberg, Kravis & Roberts (KKR) Member and Head of Global Public Affairs Ken Mehlman summed up his approach to sustainability in a single sentence: “it’s got to be about what you do.” The comment was in response to a panel that EDF moderated at KKR’s first annual sustainability summit, where guest panelists Jeff Foote from Coca-Cola, Mitch Jackson from FedEx, and Maury Wolfe from Intercontinental Hotels Group shared their successes and challenges in improving their organizations’ environmental performance. Ken highlighted a common theme in all three panelists’ remarks: for a company’s work on sustainability to have a real impact, it needs to be integrated into its core business model.
KKR has clearly taken the same lesson to heart. By integrating environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues into how it evaluates and manages portfolio companies, KKR has shown what that thinking can achieve for a private equity firm and its portfolio companies. Read more
Directing capital toward better results for the planet requires that companies and investors have clear information about how environmental, social and governance issues translate to real business risks and opportunities. Of the many groups today that are looking to standardize how companies report on sustainability issues, the Sustainability Accounting Standards Board (SASB) takes a distinct approach by zeroing in on what publically traded U.S. companies should disclose in their filings to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). When I attended a recent workshop the organization hosted in Boston as part of Sustainable Brands’ New Metrics conference, I learned more about what SASB is up to and what impact the group’s work could have.
Guest post by Chris Pinney, President, High Meadows Institute
While it may seem that increasing progress is being made on integrating sustainability in the financial sector, the recent UN Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI) conference in Montreal was a sobering reminder of the challenges that still need to be addressed.
On the one hand, we have seen a rapid growth of financial firms subscribing to the UNPRI, with firms now representing $45 trillion in assets under management. At the same time, as UNPRI’s Managing Director Fiona Reynolds reported in Montreal, only 6% of asset owners committed to the UNPRI report that their performance management and compensation systems for senior executives include metrics that recognize and reward sustainability performance. As she noted, “What gets measured gets managed. If responsible investment is to become truly mainstream, it must start at the very top of every organization, with the right incentives.”
Prior to joining EDF, I worked in a variety of finance-related roles, from building the alternative energy franchise at an investment bank to pioneering investment in rural communities in the developing world at Root Capital. As part of my work at EDF, I’m investigating what financing mechanisms can drive investment in projects with big environmental returns, as well as financial ones. This post is the start of a new series looking at the green bond market, and in the future, I’ll be delving into other areas of impact investing.
Eighteen months ago, you might have never heard of a green bond. The market averaged less than $3 billion per year, but that is quickly changing. $14 billion in green bonds were issued in 2013 and Bloomberg New Energy Finance projects as much as $45 billion to be issued this year. One expert even sees the market climbing to $100 billion in 2015.
Flexible financing for sustainability projects
So what are green bonds, and what is driving this market growth? Simply put, they’re a debt instrument that can be linked to an environmental benefit. One compelling aspect of green bonds is their flexibility. While some may be tied to energy efficiency and renewable energy projects, others are used for projects around climate resiliency, water infrastructure and a growing list of other high-priority sustainability areas.
As countries experience the mounting impacts of climate change, there is an increasing global demand for capital in these critical infrastructure categories. At the same time, funds that are integrating environmental, social and governance criteria in their investment decisions are looking for these types of instruments to add to their portfolios.
Last month, twelve major corporations announced a combined goal of buying 8.4 million megawatt hours of renewable energy each year and called for market changes to make these large-scale purchases possible. Their commitment shows that demand for renewables has reached the big time.
We're proud that eight of the twelve are EDF Climate Corps host organizations: Bloomberg, Facebook, General Motors, Hewlett Packard, Proctor & Gamble, REI, Sprint and Walmart. The coalition, brought together by the World Wildlife Fund and World Resources Institute, is demanding enough renewable energy to power 800,000 homes a year. And while it's great to see these big names in the headlines, they're not alone in calling for clean energy: 60 percent of the largest U.S. businesses have set public goals to increase their use of renewables, cut carbon pollution or both.
Companies want renewable energy because it makes good business sense: it’s clean, diversifies their energy supply, helps them hedge against fuel price volatility and furthers their greenhouse gas reduction goals. Renewables are now the fastest-growing power generation sector, and by 2018, they’re expected to make up almost a quarter of the global power mix. Prices of solar panels have dropped 75 percent since 2008, and in some parts of the country, wind is already cost-competitive with coal and gas.
CC 2012 fellow Sarah Stern presents her work to CD&R's Daniel Jacobs, left, and Thomas Franco, right
Summer at EDF is always an exciting time as EDF Climate Corps fellows fan out and begin their placements at organizations across the country. This year we're thrilled to see a dozen fellows working with private equity firms and their portfolio companies, the highest number of such placements in a single summer. In total, EDF has now placed 44 EDF Climate Corps fellows in the private equity sector to date.
Managing investment dollars equivalent to roughly 8 percent of U.S. GDP, the private equity sector is critical to sharing, replicating and advancing corporate environmental best practices, so it's gratifying to see the level of activity continue to build. New hosts this year include portfolio companies Associated Materials, Avaya, Floor & Décor, Philadelphia Energy Solutions and Taylor Morrison. Private equity firms KKR and Warburg Pincus are also hosting fellows this year, as they have previously.
Too often, environmental performance gets labeled as the responsibility of one team within a company – whether that of a dedicated sustainability staff, external or public affairs, legal or compliance, etc. As a result, a company’s staff can often think of environmental and social governance (ESG) issues as what Douglas Adams once famously termed an SEP – Somebody Else’s Problem.
With the release of its 2013 ESG and Citizenship Report, private equity firm Kravis Kohlberg & Roberts (KKR) shows it’s taking a different approach: KKR has adopted a new global policy that makes identifying and addressing ESG risks in both the pre-investment and investment phases, for its staff, everyone’s problem.
Notably, KKR’s private equity investment professionals are being integrated into the ESG risk assessment process: first, in assessing risks during the diligence phase, and second, working with portfolio companies, consultants and subject matter experts to set performance goals and measure against them during the typical five to seven years a company remains part of its portfolio.
Environmental concerns about methane emissions continue to grow as more people understand the negative climate implications of this incredibly potent greenhouse gas. Now the financial community is taking note of not only the environmental risks but the impact of methane emissions on the oil and gas industry’s bottom line. Methane leaks not only pollute the atmosphere, but every thousand cubic feet lost represents actual dollars being leaked into thin air—bad business any way you look at it.
Source: Ash Waechter
Last week the Sustainability Accounting Standards Board (SASB)—a collaborative effort aimed at improving corporate performance on environmental, social and government issues—released their provisional accounting standards for the non-renewable resources sector, which includes oil and gas production.
These accounting standards guide companies on how to measure and disclose environmental, social, and governance (ESG) risks that impact a company’s financial performance. Their work highlights the growing demand amongst investors and stakeholders for companies to report information beyond mere financial metrics in order to provide a more holistic view of a company’s position.
Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) is honored to be ranked by GreenBiz as one of the three trusted leaders among environmental nonprofits, along with World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and The Nature Conservancy (TNC) – truly excellent company.
In its inaugural NGO Report, GreenBiz asked hundreds of sustainability executives from large corporations to rate and rank 30 leading NGOs in terms of influence, credibility and effectiveness. GreenBiz charted the responses and grouped the NGOs in four categories:
- Trusted Partners – Corporate-friendly, highly credible, long-term partners with easy-to-find public success stories
- Useful Resources – Highly credible organizations known for creating helpful frameworks and services for corporate partners
- Brand Challenged – Credible, but not influential, organizations
- The Uninvited – Less broadly known groups, or those viewed more as critics than partners Read more