KKR & Co. will almost triple its sustainable-investing group as the $429 billion alternative-asset manager sharpens its focus on environmental, social and governance goals.
The unit responsible for working with investment teams to implement sustainable strategies and metrics across asset classes will rise to 12 from four by year-end, according to its leader, Elizabeth Seeger. Recent hires include former Blackstone Inc. ESG chief Alison Fenton-Willock and Dianne Kim, KKR’s first ESG compliance officer, who previously worked at CVC Credit Partners.
Stanley Kwong, who led ESG origination and impact investment strategy for Aviva Investors’ real-assets business, is joining to focus on strategy and implementation across Europe, and a similar addition will be made in Asia, Seeger said.
Sustainable investing is one of the hottest areas in money management. Earlier this month, Apollo Global Management Inc. appointed its first chief sustainability officer, and in September, Carlyle Group Inc. and Blackstone joined institutional clients in an effort to standardize and share ESG data.
Asset managers, however, are drawing increased scrutiny amid claims that the moves exaggerate their environmental credentials, a practice known as greenwashing. The private equity industry has long been a backer of fossil-fuel deals, and KKR recently said it’s seeking more shale investments.
“Our approach is always to engage with companies to make them better on these topics, whether they are in industries that tend to have fewer ESG-related challenges or not,” Seeger said in an interview. “In general, I haven’t seen as much momentum in sustainability in the last 20 years as I have in the last two years or even six months.”
The firm’s projects include establishing climate-related targets at some of the funds it’s raising to ensure all majority-owned companies will implement decarbonization plans. This could serve as a blueprint for future products, according to Seeger.
Other recent hires include former Morgan Stanley data engineer Thibault Twahirwa, who joined KKR as a senior technology developer to help drive ESG integration across its systems, and Nicole Wilson, a principal focused on ESG integration, particularly within the firm’s real estate strategy. Wilson previously worked at International Finance Corp. and PSP Investments.