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

By Reynir Indahl and Hannah Gunvor Jacobsen, Summa Equity
The private equity industry is evolving. When the 1980s gave birth to the first wave of leveraged buyouts, PE firms created value primarily through financial engineering. This involved the use of high leverage in combination with large equity stakes to motivate managers charged mainly with taking costs out of mature businesses. Then, in the 1990s, PE 2.0 was focused heavily on increasing operating efficiencies, accomplished often by bringing in proven CEOs from successful public companies. Starting in the 2000s, PE 3.0 saw the building of large financial institutions that continued to function as value-adding buyers, while responding to tough competition from both strategic and financial buyers by expanding into different asset classes and developing new areas of expertise.

Today, in a movement that might be called Private Equity 4.0, a growing number of PE firms have been adding to their existing capabilities the effective management of “externalities” and environmental, social, and governance (ESG) factors. In this article, we focus on how one such firm—our firm, Summa Equity—has turned its ESG principles and practices into a core competence, a source of competitive advantage that has enabled the firm to distinguish itself from its competitors and, in so doing, to bring about significant increases in efficiency and long-run value.

To read the full article, published in the Journal of Applied Corporate Finance (2019), Volume 31, Number 2, pp. 34-41. or download the pdf here.



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