The challenges facing the world today are enormous. The private equity industry, which invests billions of dollars and employs million of people, has an important role to play.

The pandemic is affecting communities differently, underscoring racial, ethnic and income disparities. It is also affecting groups of workers differently, with essential workers at much greater risk of infection. The events of 2020 revealed that, despite all the economic progress throughout the world since the end of World War II, there are still many people being left behind.

In many ways, the private equity model has held up pretty well throughout the pandemic, as is clear from the roaring dealmaking environment we’re seeing today. The discipline and professionalism PE investors impose on their portfolio companies is paying off.

But in other ways, the PE industry has been slow to really take the reins on the key issues of the day, such as racial justice, inclusion, climate change and economic fairness.

Private equity could play a huge role. As the American Investment Council points out on its home page, “private equity invests half a trillion dollars in American businesses each year,” and “millions of American jobs rely on private equity.”

In 2021, PE pros will be meeting with members of Congress and the new federal government – some of whom want to raise taxes on the asset class. It’s an important opportunity to show there’s more to PE than carried interest concerns. We hope to see the private equity industry take on more leadership issues, including the safety of essential workers, environmental protections and diversity.

We’re already seeing some encouraging signs, including a slew of PE firms supporting the Institutional Limited Partners Association’s (ILPA) Diversity in Action strategy, including Apollo Global Management; Audax Group; Blackstone; Carlyle; Clayton, Dubilier & Rice; KKR; LLR Partners; Palladium Equity and Silver Lake.

“Our aim is to celebrate and elevate the specific measures taken by a wide range of organizations to make the private equity industry more diverse and inclusive,” says Jennifer Choi, managing director of industry affairs at ILPA.

Mergers & Acquisitions will be keeping a scorecard throughout 2021, and at the end of the year, we’ll be celebrating the Top Innovators in M&A, a new list that will honor those who are making positive change in the world. You can meet the leaders at the helm of the middle market’s most innovative companies at our virtual event, Top Innovators in M&A Speak, on November 17, 2021.