A sustainable approach can make perfect business sense. Just look at Hong Kong-based business risk and sustainability specialist ELEVATE - since EQT Mid Market invested in 2016, the company has expanded significantly and recently acquired CSR Asia.
When the EQT Mid Market fund acquired a majority stake in the leading business risk and sustainability solutions provider ELEVATE in 2016, it seemed in many ways like the perfect match: An investor with a responsible and sustainable approach, acquiring a company specialized in advising and helping with business-driven sustainability.
The EQT team found that ELEVATE, which offers customized programs to improve social, environmental and business performance in its customers’ supply chains, was benefitting from global challenges and megatrends such as increased environmental regulations and urbanization. But the team also noted that the company had a unique position in the market: Its view on supply chain sustainability and risk management went way beyond the standard inspection and audit work, and the company delivered tangible results to the customers, such as reduced costs, higher employee engagement and loyalty, and more environmentally friendly practices.
“ELEVATE’s approach to sustainable supply chain is about helping companies “future-proofing” their operations. ELEVATE was clearly ahead of its competitors with the services it was providing, but what ultimately attracted us was the company’s entrepreneurial mindset and culture of innovation”, says Tak Wai CHUNG, Partner at EQT Partners, Investment Advisor to the EQT Mid Market fund.
Since the acquisition, the focus has been on identifying and evaluating the best opportunities for growth, both through operational improvements and potential acquisitions. The company has expanded further into Europe, supported by EQT’s extensive network, including its Industrial Advisors and other portfolio companies.
“As part of the growth strategy, ELEVATE recently acquired CSR Asia, a company that sets out to support businesses with sustainability strategy and reporting through advisory, networks, events and intelligence.The investment is the first in a series of pivots to further diversify its strategic consultancy offering to include ESG strategy and reporting, and expand the geographic footprint to include Singapore, Japan, Malaysia, Thailand and Australia”, says Tak Wai CHUNG.
On the operational side, EQT Mid Market has assisted the company with improving its digital systems. ELEVATE was already ahead of its competitors in its use of data analytics, but the company is now looking to invest in new ways of collecting data that can scale the work it has done historically to a much larger degree.
Ian Spaulding, CEO at ELEVATE explains: “We are excited about how we, together with EQT Mid Market, can continue to innovate and invest in new services, expanding our scope and outreach into new sectors. Through the identification of risk areas and the supply chain and sustainability solutions we provide, we can see the positive impact we have on millions of people in the supply chain – the work we do provides a win-win for all stakeholders involved”.
Since EQT Mid Market first invested, ELEVATE’s audit business has already grown by around 27% a year – among the fastest in the sector. ELEVATE is now accelerating and diversifying its offering even further.
"EQT looks to identify companies that can bring creative solutions to societal problems, particularly when looking at sustainability. ELEVATE is doing that by re-engineering social compliance efforts to put more emphasis on performance and partnership, and less emphasis on policing and compliance”, says Therése Lennehag, Head of Responsible Investment at EQT Partners.
Tak Wai CHUNG concludes: “Recently, ELEVATE was presented with a prestigious Sedex Award for the “Most innovative new programme” based on its work in collaboration with EICC. The award showcases ELEVATE’s product and program’s capability to support positive impact and continuous improvement within the supply chain, further indicating that the company has a bright future ahead”.