Sustainable Investment Awards 2021

Private equity manager of the year: Actis

Actis retained its title as Private equity manager of the year after the global sustainable infrastructure investor responded strongly to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on its portfolio companies.

Shami NissanThe London-based firm, which manages $15 billion in assets, said early action was key to ensuring its businesses continued to operate amid the pandemic. The investor said its actions helped protect the welfare of 120,000 portfolio company employees and wider communities.

Actis invests in more than 50 countries, and in about 100 companies.

It established a 'Covid-19 committee', which identified the urgent need to address the lack of reliable health information in Actis' countries of operation as one of the principal ways the firm could help group employees and their families.

Actis said it created WhatsApp groups with village leaders and used slots on local radio stations to educate communities about the virus. It also worked with portfolio companies to hire vans with megaphones to share health information in areas with limited mobile connectivity.

Community investment funds were also "pivoted" towards helping schools with remote learning; providing hygiene and food parcels; providing training, skills and tools for income-generating activities, for example teaching women and young people how to manufacture soap using local products, and then to package, market and sell it.

One Environmental Finance Sustainable Investment Awards judge said Actis should be "commended for the initiatives and steps they took last year to educate and support local communities".

Actis said these efforts helped it forge a stronger bond with portfolio companies.

It also undertook a programme of work aimed at engaging LPs on the need for investment to be directed towards businesses that represent long-term value creation and can aid in the economic recovery following the Covid-19 pandemic. This included a webinar on the topic, as well as a series of virtual site visits, in place of in-person due diligence.

Shami Nissan, head of responsible investment at Actis, said the investor's pandemic-related work remains a key priority. "Beyond that, our focus is on the energy transition and navigating the risks and opportunities that exist globally as part of a transition to a low-carbon future," she said.

"Inclusion and diversity are a priority for us internally but also with our portfolio companies, where we continue to engage, support and accelerate progress. We are running masterclasses for board members on inclusion and diversity in the coming months, for example."