For the last six months, the editorial team at Private Equity International have been on something of a voyage of discovery in responsible investing. Last July, we set out on a search to find inspirational examples of innovation in ESG and impact investing. The idea was simple enough: with the world gripped by covid-19 and the Black Lives Matter protests, we wanted to uncover examples that showed that the private equity world really could innovate in areas such as diversity, social responsibility and the environment.

We asked for submissions for PEI’s new listing of private equity’s top innovators in ESG and impact investing and were blown away by the response. There were nearly 130 submissions: not just from the mega firms and multi-billion-dollar asset managers, but also from niche managers and impact investors that prove that you don’t need to be a big name to make a difference.

We make no apology for the diversity of the initiatives highlighted here – that was exactly what we hoped to discover – nor the large number: the original aim was to feature just one entry per category but such was the standard that we have ended up detailing 36 separate projects, ranging from women’s empowerment funds in Africa to ESG-backed subscription lines from some of the world’s top private equity firms.

This listing of the 30 Big Ideas Shaping ESG covers the cutting-edge innovations in fields ranging from finance to social responsibility, while our Impact in Action article details six case studies that demonstrate the potential of impact investing.

The common factor is that all the initiatives show originality and a scale of ambition that suggest that private equity has the vision – and the tools at its disposal – to tackle some of the world’s most intractable problems.