Wednesday, March 9, 2011

KKR at LBS - Socially Responsible Private Equity

Just now, we had the inaugural talk for the Socially Responsible Private Equity talk given by Ken Mehlman, KKR's Global Head of Public Affairs. He was the Chairman of the United States Republican Party, campaign manager for President George W. Bush's re-election campaign, and White House Political Director. He was also a classmate of Barack Obama at Harvard Law.

He gave a great talk on how social responsibility is integral to sustainability of a business, especially one with patient capital in PE. One point he made which I thought was particularly poignant seemed to echo the ideas of Integrative Thinking. He said that there are generally two common models with regards to social responsibility:

  1. Corporate CSR – Where a company makes contributions to organizations outside of its operations that show it cares.
  2. It focuses solely on strong operations and generating business returns to the bottom line without much consideration for social responsibility.
He mentioned that KKR takes a third approach, and that it integrates social responsibility not just at some abstract corporate or portfolio level, but right down to the alignment of its operations to produce. Examples of this would include involving a broader definition of stakeholders versus shareholders such as environmental agencies and unions in determining the best course of action for a company’s future operations and how it should be run.

Besides some of the insightful deal war stories, future PE trends and industry knowledge he shared, he also gave great advice on what he thought it took to be successful which was well received by the crowd.

There were a host of excellent questions asked by the crowd in the Q&A session as well as the cocktail reception following. I’m looking forward to the next event hosted by the PEVC club.

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