Pan-African private equity firm Helios Investment Partners has become the largest emerging markets-focused private equity firm to be awarded B-Corp status. The $3.6 billion AUM firm invests exclusively in companies across Africa and has offices in London, Paris, Lagos and Nairobi.
The B-Corporation Certification is independently verified by B Lab, a UK-based non-profit organisation that runs various initiatives aimed at “using business as a force of good”.
Achieving B-Corp status requires each participating company to complete an assessment to evaluate five impact areas: governance, workers, community, environment and customers. This results in an overall score, with an average of around 50 points, and a minimum of 80 points to certify – Helios scored 97.9. The firm’s certification was described by a B Lab representative as “a testament to the standard of their current practices and their ongoing commitment to creating a positive impact across the whole of their business”.
As LPs and regulators become increasingly conscious of ESG, many firms are looking to impact-related certifications to demonstrate their commitment to the cause. The United Nations’ Principles of Responsible Investment has more than 2,400 signatories, including asset owners and managers.
But with criticisms of the UN PRI being more of a “tick the box exercise” than a useful indicator for ESG, the less prevalent B-Corp certification could carry more weight for LPs and GPs alike.
In 2019, TowerBrook Capital Partners became the first “mainstream” private equity firm to become a B-Corp, which Tim Hames, then director-general of the British Private Equity & Venture Capital Association, described at the time as taking “a commitment to ESG to a new and more demanding level”. Other B-Corp-certified private equity firms include software-focused Alpine Investors and Milan-based impact firm Ambienta.
“B-Corps meet the highest standards of verified social and environmental performance, public transparency and legal accountability to balance profit and purpose,” said Helios co-founder and managing partner Tope Lawani. “We firmly believe this approach creates more valuable and more sustainable businesses with stronger long-term growth prospects.”