Private equity's climate footprint gains focus
Look for carbon emissions from companies held by private equity to come under increasing scrutiny, a new report finds.
Driving the news: MSCI, the investment research and data firm, is out with its list of trends and topics to watch in the environmental, social and governance (ESG) space.
- One of them is whether, as critics charge, "privately held companies are becoming an opaque refuge for carbon-intensive fossil-fuel assets," a topic the NYT explored recently.
- "The jury is out, because the private-equity funds that own these companies aren’t saying much," MSCI adds.
Zoom in: The report provides a rough look at private equity energy investments, noting that from 2010 through November of this year, only 12.4% were related to renewables.
- Meanwhile, "investments in fossil-fuel-related assets remained robust, even as they have declined in the public universe."
- However, it also notes that energy overall is a small slice of private equity transactions.
The big picture: "Today, even the largest private equity funds, including those that are publicly listed, have revealed little about the emissions footprint of their portfolio companies," MSCI notes.
- Still, some companies have started either reporting on the emissions of companies in their portfolio or plan to do so.
What we're watching: Public companies are increasingly facing pressure and requirements to report climate-related risks and whether their activities are aligned with holding global warming in check, MSCI notes.
- "Managers of private-equity funds, too, may soon face similar requirements," they predict.
Why it matters: The report comes amid growing scrutiny over private equity's climate footprint, especially as major publicly traded oil and energy companies face pressure to divest polluting assets.
Yes, but: While private equity often comes under fire, several firms are also creating major new climate-focused funds and initiatives, such as the TPG Rise Climate Fund that launched this year with a $5.4 billion initial round.
- One metric: Private equity investments in U.S. renewables hit a new record last year at nearly $24 billion, per the American Investment Council, the industry's advocacy and lobbying arm.
- "In 2020 alone, private equity backing represented the majority of private investment in renewable energy projects," the group said in a statement.
The MSCI report includes the chart above about varying levels of disclosure among the top private equity companies as of mid-November.
- "[O]nly one, EQT Partners, had a meaningful representation of emissions from its portfolio companies, although the Carlyle Group and TPG Capital have indicated that they have started to monitor their portfolio-company emissions," it notes.