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How LPs can help improve DE&I

LPs can lead by example to accelerate progress on diversity, equity and inclusion, say Marie-Andrée Dupuis and Giovanni Orsi of Canada’s PSP Investments.

Marie-Andrée Dupuis

How do you encourage a culture of DE&I at PSP?

For PSP, equity, inclusion and diversity are leadership commitments. Our approach was originally focused on ensuring compliance with the Employment Equity Act in Canada. In 2017, we pivoted to a wider focus, aligned with our strategic priorities and our engagement towards creating a respectful and inclusive workplace. This is when we created our PSP Ei&D Council powered by eight Affinity Groups tasked with leading a variety of impactful initiatives to raise awareness and address challenges experienced by underrepresented groups.

From the start, the council was co-chaired by Neil Cunningham, president and CEO, and Giulia Cirillo, senior vice-president, chief human resources and global communications officer, and is currently supported by more than 100 employees of all levels of seniority across PSP. We felt executive presence would send a powerful message about our accountability and the importance we place on DE&I.

Giovanni Orsi

How can LPs help improve DE&I in private markets?

First, LPs can lead by example and support the private equity industry to accelerate DE&I progress by increasing DE&I within their own organisations. Last year, PSP performed a structural inclusion audit of our own HR policies, programmes, processes and practices to identify and address any systemic barriers and opportunities for improvement. We shared the results of the audit as well as the key priorities and actions openly with employees and in our annual report. We also introduced a DE&I Index in our continuous employee engagement survey to gain insight into how employees are experiencing DE&I.

LPs can also enhance their requests to GPs on DE&I metrics reporting at both firm and fund/portfolio company level. This leads to more accountability and increased momentum for DE&I action. In private markets, we also noticed that LPs actively monitor GP action to drive change. By increasing scrutiny of GP tracking, measuring and disclosure practices and by making GPs accountable, LPs can catalyse DE&I advancements with an impact extending across the business community.

How does PSP engage with GPs on DE&I?

We employ an in-house proprietary assessment framework that evaluates our GPs’ ESG practices across more than 35 indicators and three key pillars (policies and resources; investment process; communications and leadership). We revamped our assessment framework to incorporate emerging practices and enhance tracking of broad KPIs that are relevant across diverse geographies and assets and custom ESG KPIs for certain investments, both at the fund and portfolio levels.

We have also incorporated a DE&I building block in our ESG assessment framework, which brings greater focus on DE&I considerations, on the GPs’ DE&I practices at the firm level and on DE&I integration practices in their investment process. Refining and enhancing our analysis of GPs’ DE&I practices equips us to engage with GPs on their own practices relative to those of peers and influence changes of practice leading to meaningful impacts.

Marie-Andrée Dupuis is managing director, talent management, development and Ei&D; Giovanni Orsi is managing director, head of relationships and partnerships, private equity