Ken Mehlman spoke with LinkedIn editor Devin Banerjee concerning the fight for equality, the value of lateral thinking, and why this year’s Pride Month was particularly significant. The conversation was published as part of the LinkedIn News series #OutOnLinkedIn in the bi-weekly series Human Capital.
Speaking on the significance of Pride Month in 2021, Mehlman states:
This year’s Pride Month is particularly notable because of the fact that it coincided with the establishment of a Juneteenth federal holiday. It seems to me that in both cases, we are celebrating the same underlying values: freedom, equality, opportunity, unity.
If we learned anything over the course of the last year, when many of us were shuttered in our homes, it ought to be to recognize how critical these values are.
You can read the full interview here:
In The New York Times today, Ken Mehlman discussed why support of gay rights is support of freedom, a guiding principle of Conservative politics. His words follow a host of nearly 50 friend-of-the-court briefs signed and submitted to the Supreme Court by members of Congress, women’s rights groups, and businesses in three pending cases involving L.G.B.T.Q. rights.
The cases, which the court is likely to take up next session, consider whether Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits employment discrimination based on sex, prohibits discrimination against L.G.B.T.Q. people. The signers reflect what a broad cross section of Americans overwhelmingly believe: Such discrimination is wrong.
…basic protections against job discrimination are fundamental to core American values of fairness.
Read the full article in The New York Times here:
Leading global investment firm KKR announced an investment in Barghest Building Performance, a Singapore-based provider of energy savings solutions to Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning systems in commercial and industrial buildings. KKR will be investing up to S$45 million in the Company.
“Our Global Impact team is focused on investing behind companies whose core commercial product or service addresses global environmental or social challenges. BBP contributes solutions to two of the United Nations SDGs – Affordable and Clean Energy, and Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure – with a business model meant to fundamentally change best practices for energy management. BBP’s motivation, as is ours, is to achieve meaningful and sustainable costs savings for customers directly alongside long-term and measurable environmental impacts for society,” said Robert Antablin and Ken Mehlman, Co-Heads of KKR Global Impact.
Ken Mehlman spoke with Bloomberg about the rise of impact investing and how investors can contribute to solving critical societal challenges:
Singapore Energy-Saving Firm Wins $33 Million KKR Investment – Bloomberg
Impact Investing, Fed Outlook, Bitcoin Value: Bloomberg Businessweek Radio
The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative (CZI) has brought together a diverse group of advisors and experts to collaborate on the advancement of medical science and learning technologies. In her article published in the Chronicle of Philanthropy, Megan O’Neil outlines the unique strengths and experience brought to the team by a few distinguished individuals. Ken Mehlman has the honor of working alongside these individuals to accomplish CZI’s mission of advancing human potential and promoting equality.
Ken Mehlman and Alan Beller, Senior Counsel at Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton, have joined the Board of Directors of the Sustainability Accounting Standards Board, or SASB. SASB is a non-profit organization that provides sustainability accounting standards for publicly-listed corporations in the United States. Mehlman and Beller will serve a three-year term on the Board, effective June 2015.
As Global Head of Public Affairs at KKR, Ken Mehlman leads the Environmental Social Governance programs both for KKR and for the companies in its portfolio. Before he joined KKR, Mehlman led a bipartisan public policy and regulatory practice for global law firm Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld. He also spent many years in national politics and government service.
“Thoroughly understanding the stakeholders impacted by our investments enhances bottom line value and mitigates risk,” Mehlman said. “The planet is only going to be saved at a profit, and the better we understand this connection through work like SASB’s, the smarter our decisions become.”
Mary Schapiro, Former Chair of the SEC and Vice Chair of the SASB Board of Directors, is glad to have Beller and Mehlman on SASB’s Board. “As leaders in their respective fields, Ken and Alan share expertise in helping businesses understand the material risk and opportunity linked to sustainability factors. Their leadership will be invaluable as SASB continues its work to make markets more transparent and efficient.”
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.”
According to Kenneth Mehlman, Lesson 1 is to find something you’re passionate about and try to get paid to do it. As he said in the video, “I don’t believe that success makes happiness; I believe that happiness makes success.”
Lesson 2 is to “monetize what you know”—that is, have a unique body of knowledge that you can offer to an organization. Don’t go where everyone is like you; go where you are different, so you bring a different perspective and add a different value. As he argued, that way you won’t be monetized “based on how cheap you are and how long you can work; you can instead price yourself based on what you know and what you know that’s different.”
For Lesson 3, he suggested that “life is best lived in chapters.” He used the example of a potted plant that reaches the edge of its pot and then gets transplanted to a larger pot. Its roots still stay the same. As he put it, “a good career is one in which there is a fair amount of repotting.” Ken Mehlman referenced his own 12 years in politics, followed by his 7 years in private equity.
For a fruitful career in public policy, take these lessons and be what Ken Mehlman called a white blood cell, since “white blood cells kill disease; they solve problems. They don’t worry about who gets credit…If you don’t worry about who gets credit, you can accomplish unbelievable amounts of things.” The people who have the biggest impact are the ones who help the people below them as much as they help the people above them—and helping someone above you means telling them what they need to hear, not necessarily what they want to hear.
At SuperReturns International 2016 in Berlin, Ken Mehlman spoke with “Bloomberg Markets.” He discussed the 2016 outlook for private equity and KKR’s global vision. He acknowledged that, “there’s a lot of volatility across lots of economies across the world, a lot of industries,” but said that people at KKR look at things optimistically because they see situations like this as being full of opportunity.
In this video, Ken Mehlman attributes KKR’s positive outlook to their patient capital; belief that success is measured over the long-term, not just in quarterly returns; proven ability to add growth and value to the companies they invest in beyond just capital; and ability to invest flexibly. For firms with those qualities, according to this video, now is a good time to invest.
When asked about any surprises or points of focus at the conference, Ken Mehlman responded, “A lot of focus…on the energy space, broadly, and what’s happening there.” In fact, the conference dedicated a full day to Environmental Social Governance (ESG), including a keynote by Al Gore and David Blood. To Mehlman, this is a reflection of where the world is going. Investing successfully today, he says, requires the ability to understand, “where you’re operating, the geopolitical questions, to understand public policy and regulatory issues, and to understand the value that can be created if you can engage effectively with stakeholders.”
Kenneth Mehlman also explains that private equity has the ability to be a solution provider, not a savior, to help build infrastructure, finance retirement, and build better companies. Doing so can generate the returns investors expect, while also helping to solve important societal problems.
For example, according to Mehlman, KKR has invested in three different municipal water systems, modernizing them in a way that is environmentally positive and beneficial to the community. To take advantage of such opportunities, it is necessary to understand the people in those communities.
Finally, Mehlman was asked about regulation. In his opinion, investment should be regulated, so when he meets with government officials or policy makers, it’s less about asking for reduced regulation and more about asking what private equity can do to help and where investment is needed.
Out Leadership recently released a webinar, entitled Inside OutNEXT, which took an in-depth look at how Out Leadership planned and organized their second annual and first global Emerging Leader Summit in July. Hosted by Barclays, the OutNEXT Emerging Leader Summit involved more than 180 emerging leaders from member companies involved in Out Leadership.
The conference took place in New York City at Barclay’s offices, and included best-in-class leadership development content from a wide variety of experts and LGBT community leaders. Speakers included Ken Mehlman, as well as Dorie Clark, Andy Cohen, Jim Obergefell, and David Mixner.
The webinar, which is Out Leadership’s first ever, discusses the approach that the Out Leadership team took to develop the curriculum and content, as well as the work that they are doing to engage the 2015 cohort of emerging leaders from OutNEXT. They also present some of the insights from their social justice hackathon winning teams, as well as a brainstorm on how Out Leadership can help support individual company’s efforts to drive positive impacts.
Ken Mehlman was a member of the Out on the Street Leadership committee and explains some of the benefits of the program. “Out Leadership will help members succeed while making a positive impact. It will help smart businesses share effective tools to recruit and retain the best talent and enhance true meritocracy throughout our firms and society.”
Out Leadership is a strategic advisory firm that connects senior leaders “across the world’s most influential industries to create business opportunity, cultivate talent, and drive LGBT equality forward.” They have hosted leadership summits and seminars on four continents and work with member organizations throughout Europe, Asia, and North America. Member organizations included KKR, Barclays, Bloomberg and Morgan Stanley among 61 other member firms.
Private equity firm Kohlberg, Kravis, and Roberts announced on August 12th that its employees now have the option to bring new children and their caregivers on business trips for up to a year after the child is born, paid for by KKR. Additionally, KKR expanded the leave time it offers to new parents.
KKR is aiming to change the demographic landscape of private equity, where nine out of ten senior managers are men. Women hold 16% of senior positions in investment management according to Catalyst, a nonprofit group.
This year, according to Bloomberg, KKR assembled a council in charge of devising ways to expand the firm’s appeal to “women, minorities, gays and lesbians, who traditionally haven’t entered asset management in large numbers.”
KKR is one of the companies at the forefront of expanding the options available to new fathers and mothers. According to the New York Times, the firm joins companies such as Yahoo, Microsoft, Netflix, IBM, and Goldman Sachs, which have begun offering various maternity benefits.
Such benefits include varying amounts of expanded paid leave, travel accommodations for new parents, and the option to ship breast milk home when away on business, paid for by the company. These companies are expanding their benefits in order to attract and retain talented employees.
Ken Mehlman is quoted in Bloomberg, saying:
“The best and the brightest of the future don’t look like the best and the brightest of the past,” said Ken Mehlman, a KKR partner and former chairman of the Republican National Committee. “This is a necessary first step. I hope the whole industry improves and we all learn together.”
Co-founder George R. Roberts echoes this sentiment, telling Bloomberg:
“Too many same people means too much same thinking,” Roberts, 71, said in an interview. “We found that people were hiring people like themselves. If you want to stifle innovation, if you want to stifle diverse thinking, if you want to stifle creativity, then just keep hiring people like yourself.”
Executives at KKR have made progress over the last three years in addressing the gender gap—statistics from Bloomberg indicate the gender gap at KKR has improved by 7.3%, the highest of all the private equity firms surveyed. While there is still more progress to be made, KKR is on the right track.