PA showcases disruptive tech to UN Global Compact delegates

23 November 2016

PA Consulting Group recently hosted business leaders of companies participating in the United Nations Global Compact at the firm’s Cambridge Technology Centre. The attendees participated in a collection of workshops on emerging disruptive technologies and how these could impact sustainability, as part of the 2016 Lead Symposium taking place in Cambridge.

The United Nations Global Compact is a United Nations initiative to encourage businesses and entrepreneurs worldwide to adopt sustainable and socially responsible policies and to report on their implementation. As part of the initiative, participants from across the globe – they stem from UN agencies, labour groups and organisations to governments, consulting firms and politicians – regularly come together to discuss how realisation of the UN’s so-called Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) can be met and how advancement in the field can be supported.

The latest event on the calendar took place last week in the UK, with LEAD participants – an exclusive group of sustainability leaders from across all regions and sectors that represent the cutting edge of the UN Global Compact – attending the Symposium ‘Breakthrough Innovation for the SDGs’ in Cambridge in the second week of November.

UN Global Compact Breakthrough Innovation Platform

The objective of the event was to explore ways in which breakthrough technologies could benefit or threaten the Sustainable Development Goals for governments, businesses and society. Ingvild Sørensen, Senior Manager for UN’s Global Compact LEAD programme, explained: “Change is coming at an accelerating rate and ushering in profound disruption for business. The adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Climate Agreement signal a new era of opportunity in which companies must move from talk to action – by developing and deploying innovative business models that will be at the heart of tomorrow’s economy. The UN Global Compact aims to drive radical new business models to advance the SDGs by connecting mainstream companies with next generation innovators and entrepreneurs.”

PA’ Technology Centre in Cambridge
As part of the two-day programme, delegates visited the Cambridge based Technology Centre of PA Consulting Group, a hub which is home to over 250 scientists, engineers, technologists and consultants. PA Consulting delivered a keynote address (delivered by life sciences expert Milind Kamkolkar) and facilitated workshops looking at how organisations can enable more sustainable outcomes through breakthroughs in technology and business models. Disruptive technologies considered in detail included: Artificial Intelligence, The Internet of Things, autonomous vehicles, additive manufacturing, genomics and nutrient recovery from waste.

Commenting on PA’s contribution to the programme, David Rakowski, a technology expert at the consultancy, said: “This has been a fantastic opportunity for PA to discuss real technologies that will play an important role in the future and unlock new opportunities that previously weren’t possible. We recognise that more and more organisations are rethinking how they approach sustainability to deliver maximum value. Technology is a key enabler for this, so we’re incredibly pleased to have contributed to helping the delegates understand how to tap this potential.”

The outcome of the work discussed at the conference will be presented as a report at the UN Global Compact event in Davos in January 2017.


Private equity firms ramp up sustainability focus

19 April 2019

In line with business leaders across the industrial gamut, private equity firms are increasingly on board with sustainability projects. According to a new study, the investment arms for major funds are implementing a number of strategies aimed at supporting sustainable economic development in line with global goals.

While the business world has finally begun to acknowledge the danger of climate change, effective action plans remain difficult to achieve. The Paris Agreement has stipulated a clear target for the decades leading up to 2100, although massively reducing emissions while not crashing the economy could be a tall order.

Businesses that are able to acquire capital can use it to boost productivity and output, thereby creating a virtuous cycle of development. However, some businesses are better able to utilise resources than others, both in terms of their relative productivity, as well as the value of the respective outcomes relative to costs (including environmental harms). Financing can therefore provide an avenue to select businesses that are aligned with various global sustainability goals, while shunning those that drive little or unsustainable social value creation.

Top moves made by investment arms towards responsible investment

Profit has for the longest time been the central criterion for investment decisions. Yet profit at any cost is increasingly seen as creating considerable social harms, while often delivering only marginal value. As a result, the private equity sector, which was initially sluggish to change its ways with regards to sustainability, has started to see the topic as an opportunity as much as a challenge.

A new study from PwC has explored how far sustainability goals have become part of the wider investment strategy for private equity (PE) firms. The report is based on analysis of a survey of 162 firms and includes responses from 145 general partners and 38 limited partners.

Maturing sustainability

Top-line results show that responsible investment has become an issue for 91% of respondents. For 81% of respondents, ESG (environmental, social, and corporate governance) was a board matter at least once a year, while 60% said that they already have implemented measures to address human rights issues. Two-thirds have identified and prioritised Sustainable Development goals that are relevant to their investment segments.

Change in concern and action on climate-related topics over time

While there is increasing concern around key issues, from human rights protections to environmental and biodiversity protection, the study finds there are mismatches between concern and action. For instance, concern among investment vehicles around climate change has increased since 2016.

In terms of risks to the PE firm itself, concern has increased from 46% of respondents in 2016 to 58% in the latest survey. However, the number who have taken action remains far below those concerned, at 9% in 2016 and 20% in 2019. Given the relatively broader scope of investment opportunities, portfolio companies face higher risks – and more concern – from PE professionals, at 83% in the latest survey. However, action is less than half of those concerned, at 31%.

Changing climate

In terms of the climate footprint of the portfolio companies, 77% of respondents state concern in the latest survey. 28% of respondents are taking action through the implementation of measures to mitigate their concerns.

Concern and action taken on ESG issues

In terms of the more pressing issues for emerging responsible investment or ESG issues, governance concern of portfolio companies comes in at number one (92% of respondents), while 60% have taken action on it. Firms have focused on improving awareness – setting up policies and a range of training modules for their professionals around responsible investment decision making. Cybersecurity takes the number two spot, with 89% concerned and 41% implementing strategies to mitigate risks.

Climate risks take the number three spot in terms of concern for portfolio companies (83%), but falls behind in terms of action (31%). Health and safety track records are a key concern at 80% of businesses, with 49% implementing action. Gender imbalance within PE firms themselves ranks at 78%, which is being dealt with by 31%. A recent survey from Oliver Wyman showed that there is gender balance at 13% of GP teams in developed countries.

Biodiversity is also an increasingly pertinent topic, with risks from pollution and chemical use increasingly driving wider systematic risks around environmental outcomes. It featured at number eight on the ranking of most likely global risks for the coming decade, with its impact at number six. As it stands, biodiversity is noted as an issue at 57% of firms, with 15% implementing action.