A decade of building market leaders in ESG
Achieving good ESG standards is crucial to the success of sustainable business. Not only do high ESG standards help to mitigate risk, but they also help to identify and maximise opportunities to add value to business. One of the ways BII helps firms to achieve these standards is through our ESG workshop programme, which provides hands-on support and practical advice to fund managers and investees.
Following a decade of ESG trainings specifically for fund managers—the largest such programme anywhere in emerging markets—we recently launched a revised and expanded three-year workshop programme that includes companies we invest in directly, and those we invest in through private equity funds.
The first workshops of the new programme were delivered in London and Lagos in 2019. The programme’s aim is to improve the capacity of business to incorporate ESG into their operations and to help investors integrate ESG into their investment decision-making and monitoring. Norfund, who co-funds the programme, also uses the workshops to train their own staff and direct portfolio.
When the programme was first developed, its focus was primarily on helping fund managers to integrate ESG factors into their own investment processes. However, over the past decade, we have listened to participant feedback and evolved the offering into something far more ambitious and far-reaching. New workshops focus in-depth on climate change considerations, human resource (HR) management, emerging ESG issues, and integrating impact measurement. In hosting these trainings, we use a strong ‘learning by sharing’ approach, building on shared experiences and using examples from participants.
“Ultimately, we want to give people the skills and confidence to go back to where they work and do something a little bit differently,” explains Guy Alexander, ESG Manager at BII. “Whether that’s implementing a new HR policy, different ways of including employees in consultation with management, or an equity fund taking a new approach to climate.”
Participation in this new workshop programme has increased significantly compared to previous years. Prior to 2019, more than 800 people—spanning over 100 fund managers—attended trainings. Since the delivery of our 2019 learning workshops in London and Lagos, we have already trained over 240 people from over 95 different organisations, including fund managers, portfolio companies, other development finance institutions (DFIs) and representatives from our shareholder, the Foreign and Commonwealth Development Office (FCDO). Two-thirds of participants affirmed that they would apply the content of the workshops in their work within the month, and over one-third confirmed that they had already implemented changes in ESG practice at their companies as a result of this training.
In 2020, as a consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic, in person workshops were temporarily paused. We are working to evolve a virtual training workshop that keeps as much of the interactivity and implementation-focused learning experience as possible. In late 2020 this programme ran sessions exploring how COVID-19 was affecting the ESG and business integrity investment processes of fund managers and for portfolio companies, how an ESG management system is an essential tool to navigate the changing E&S dynamics they were experiencing.
The revised workshop programme also reflects BII’s focus on supporting smaller and first-time fund managers in emerging markets, who often face tougher ESG challenges because of contextual risks and circumstances. The inclusion of portfolio companies has expanded the reach of this training and improved the quality of dialogue as diverse experiences and points of view are represented in the room. By hosting these trainings, we aim to drive ESG value beyond compliance, offering a strong line of support that focuses on emerging themes and good practices.