The search for a definitive framework to measure portfolio company progress toward ESG goals is on. But growing toward that target introduces risks of its own. “I hope we don’t end up with 15 competing frameworks and [standards] that don’t track across…markets,” said Institutional Limited Partners Association CEO Steve Nelson at the recent EisnerAmper Alternative Investment Summit.

The comments come as private equity firms and pension funds have stepped up efforts to collect standardized data and have publicized the results, spurring speculation that any number of disparate frameworks are taking shape. Carlyle Group and California Public Employees’ Retirement System are leading a group of investors managing $4 trillion worth of assets to aggregate and share diversity and emissions-related data culled from portfolio companies in a bid to standardize collection practices.

It’s a bid that could bear fruit given the inclusion of both limited and general partners. Speaking generally about ESG, and not about the investors’ data collection, Nelson noted, “Information exchange needs to become more consistent and that is a two-way street between LPs [and] GPs.”

Nelson’s ILPA has generated guidelines of its own designed to help investors analyze metrics to evaluate general partners and portfolio companies on social, governance, and environmental criteria.

“We’re on a journey with starts and stops along the way,” he said. “What matters is that there’s a robust dialogue…definitions really matter with these issues. Data can be difficult to collect obviously, this complicates and frustrates efforts even for those with the best intentions.”

The latest push for universal evaluation criteria could well lead to widespread adoption. Canada Pension Plan Investment Board and large European PE firms like CVC and EQT are among a long list of signatories.