Venture capital firm Atomico has appointed Soline Kauffmann-Tourkestansky as its first ESG and sustainability director.
The London-based firm (ranked number 47 on the VCJ 50) appears to be on the cutting edge with the new hire. The UN-backed Principles of Responsible Investment recently issued a report that found the venture capital industry’s ESG efforts lag those of the rest of private markets.
One of Kauffmann-Tourkestansky’s priorities is to support portfolio companies founders to measure – and then reduce – their carbon footprints. This will be one of several ESG KPIs Kauffmann-Tourkestansky plans to identify and implement across Atomico’s portfolio. She will also develop sector specific and individual ESG KPIs for portfolio companies.
“Founders are very aware of the fact that climate can present a risk to their business, and they’re very willing to make improvements. But they don’t necessarily know how,” Kauffmann-Tourkestansky told affiliate title New Private Markets. “Atomico has hired me specifically to answer that question. Building a company and having to think about ESG risks on the side is an additional burden for founders. They’re asking for help and they want world-class support.”
Kauffmann-Tourkestansky joins Atomico’s 10-person Growth Accelerator team, which provides operational support to the firm’s portfolio companies. She will also work with the investment team to grow ESG considerations in Atomico’s due diligence process. She joins from Paris-headquartered venture capital firm Blisce, a certified B-corp, where she was engagement and partnerships director.
“You can’t afford to look at social, environmental and governance issues separately because they’re all very much linked. If you have poor governance, it’s going to trickle down into poor social practices. If you don’t have good environmental or social practices, it’s going to have an impact on your governance. Ultimately, the issues are going to be raised at governance level and someone will be fired at some point.”
Atomico is something of a leader in sustainability among venture capital firms. It is the only one of the 50 largest VC firms to have human rights due diligence processes in place that potentially meet the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights standards, according to an Amnesty International report, New Private Markets reported in August 2021. Atomico has achieved net-zero carbon emissions across its in-house operations. Fifty-five percent of Atomico’s staff have diverse profiles, including 45 percent of the investment team, which is “double what you usually see in our industry,” says Kauffmann-Tourkestansky.
Atomico says it is one of the first venture capital firms to appoint an ESG and sustainability director. So, why has it taken venture capital so long to appoint dedicated ESG professionals? “I don’t know. I think it hasn’t necessarily been in their scope so far. VC firms have been looking at so many other variables. Building a company is so hard and firms were operating in what used to be an old framework where these sustainability questions weren’t a priority. Private equity firms have started to appoint ESG directors, and now it’s trickling down to VC.”
This article first appeared in affiliate publication New Private Markets