In an interview with Ainslie Chandler for Bloomberg Brief, Ken Mehlman explains KKR’s commitment to ESG and how it builds these considerations into its investment process by identifying new opportunities to invest, achieving double bottom-line benefits and de-risking companies. Mehlman discusses the process KKR uses to evaluate investments from an ESG perspective and the impact some of those investments have made in the lives of many people. Mehlman also shares insights about what the future holds for KKR and what could be their next big ESG investment.
Mehlman describes the process of KKR’s engagement on ESG issues as “very rigorous.” He explains that the potential company’s “protocol, their processes, their culture, their commitment—[are] examined both in terms of ‘where is the problem?’ but also ‘what can we do to make it better during the course of our ownership?’” The purpose of KKR’s ESG investment is not only to make a smart deal that will yield profit, but also to identify investments with an opportunity to improve the world.
KKR has already invested $5 billion globally for companies committed to ESG missions, Mehlman said. Those investments all have different faces: “We have done a fair bit of investing in food safety in China—starting in dairy and now in chicken and pork,” he said. “We have also invested a lot in water and renewable energy…We’ve done an investment in China in water cleanliness.”
“We expect to invest more in challenges or solutions related to water scarcity,” he added.
When asked about what issues today affect global companies, Mehlman answered that the firm is interested in how companies handle the privacy and protection of their customers. This issue has been highlighted by recent data breaches, he said.
In his opinion, Ken Mehlman does not feel that companies should ever have to choose between ESG best practices and profit. Mehlman explains that “returns are in ESG.” Speaking of an investment by KKR that allowed millions of people to receive adequate retirement pensions, Mehlman said, “The world will only be saved at a profit and the only way you are going to make a profit today is to understand the world. ESG can help you do both.”