Integrating ESG into the deal lifecycle

In this op-ed by OMMAX partner Isabella Calderon Hoyos discusses how the integration of ESG into new investment deals is now a regulatory requirement and it is essential that the reporting of ESG measures is done fairly and transparently.
Integrating ESG into the deal lifecycle

As the regulatory landscape continues to evolve, integrating Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) considerations for new investment deals has become an increasingly imperative consideration for private equity firms. The term ESG has become a regular feature in business vocabulary. It is no longer just a matter of abstract compliance for private equity but also a strategic imperative for driving value. Transparent reporting of ESG measures is crucial to ensure fairness and accountability, and positively impacts the deal lifecycle for all. 

Expectations and Demands

Every category of stakeholder has become more concerned about ESG issues, placing private equity firms under growing pressure to demonstrate their commitment to responsible and sustainable investment practices. Investors, customers, employees, and the wider public expect firms to be transparent about their ESG strategies and how ESG factors are integrated into their investment decision-making processes. 

These ESG considerations are not solely an ethical imperative but have tangible financial impacts on investments. The strength of a PE firm’s ESG standards can have a knock-on effect on the financial performance, risk management, and brand reputation of portfolio companies. As ESG discussions become more prominent in business environments, interest in impact investing among limited partners is also growing, leading to increased investment in ESG and sustainable business models. 

It’s clear that ESG is here to stay. This should translate into proactive efforts to address stakeholder expectations through transparency about efforts and outcomes, and by working closely with portfolio companies to drive positive change throughout the deal lifecycle. Firms can work collaboratively with portfolio companies to improve their ESG performance by setting targets, tracking progress, and engaging transparently with stakeholders. In turn, this can also result in cost savings, increased operational efficiency, and improved brand reputation, among other benefits.

Risk Management

ESG issues pose significant risks to investments, ranging from regulatory non-compliance to operational disruptions, legal liabilities, and reputational damage that negatively impacts growth opportunities. Just last month, for instance, the UK government announced its future regulatory regime for ESG ratings providers. This regime will determine how strictly ESG ratings should be given, which the government recognises to have an increasing impact on investment decisions in financial markets. 

Private equity firms can effectively identify, assess, and mitigate these risks by integrating considerations into decision-making processes. A critical step in risk management includes incorporating ESG efforts in the due diligence processes undertaken during the deal lifecycle. During the due diligence process, firms can thoroughly assess potential risks associated with ESG factors, such as risks related to climate change, regulatory compliance, labour practices, and supply chain management. 

Undertaking thorough ESG due diligence practices also enables private equity firms to stay ahead of changing regulatory landscapes and constantly evolving stakeholder expectations, and helps them to be more resilient to potential ESG-related risks and uncertainties. Moreover, growing evidence points to the financial value ESG can create for businesses through revenue, costs, CAPEX and cost of capital. Companies that take ESG seriously outperform their peers, creating an obvious competitive advantage for ESG-conscious companies and a clear investment incentive for PE funds. 

Technology can play a crucial role in facilitating ESG analysis and reporting for private equity portfolios, and for engaging with stakeholders. Building technology into a firm's target operating model (TOM) PE companies can enable the efficiencies to achieve effective results. For instance, PE funds can use technology to collect and aggregate thousands of data points and can use AI and machine learning to analyse ESG performance. By integrating carbon management solutions, like Carbmee for instance, companies can automate and standardise the ESG reporting process to improve the quality of ESG disclosures, improving efficiency and save on cost. 

Value Creation

By integrating ESG clearly and transparently into the deal lifecycle, private equity firms not only encourage conscious and competitive portfolio company inclusions but, ultimately, can build towards their own ESG goals and branding efforts.  Additionally, ESG can drive value creation for private equity firms along the deal lifecycle by identifying and mitigating risks, uncovering new opportunities, and enhancing the long-term sustainability of portfolio companies. By working with portfolios, private equity firms can work with portfolio companies to improve their ESG performance by setting targets, tracking progress and data-driven ESG impact measurement, defining a sustainability equity story design, and engaging with stakeholders. 

ESG considerations can also help private equity firms to identify and mitigate risks, and uncover new business opportunities that align with sustainability trends and societal demands. By investing in companies that develop renewable energy technologies, promote social impact initiatives, or engage in responsible supply chain practices, private equity firms can generate financial returns while contributing to positive environmental and social outcomes. 

By being transparent about their ESG efforts and investing more into ESG as a consideration, private equity firms stand to gain by building trust with investors, attracting socially responsible investors, and capitalising on emerging market trends.

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