By Sophie Lamb and Paul Davies

There is an increasing desire amongst PE firms to publicise value creation through the use of bespoke metrics to measure improvements and value derived from (ESG) policies including improved reputational risk management; better and more transparent governance; better health, environmental and safety standards; heightened efficiency; less disruption as a result of sanctions and protest; etc. ESG graphic

These and other opportunities inherent in a robust ESG strategy are generally well-understood by PE firms. However, commensurate appreciation of growing legal risks for buyout firms that communications around ESG strategy and commitments entail, is less evident.

There is more to this evolving area than simply general compliance and being a good corporate citizen. Real reputational, legal, political and financial consequences can arise from failing to align business practice with ESG statements and policies. Such statements and policies often contain laudable public commitments and pledges around ESG, and acknowledgements of control of, and responsibility for, such matters by private equity management and boards. However, these statements and policies have legal content and significance that must not be overlooked; they potentially create misstatement litigation exposure at board, operating and portfolio company levels.