ESG (environmental, social and governance) criteria have a growing influence over mergers and acquisitions, according to a new global study by the auditing and consulting firm PwC, undertaken in collaboration with PRI, the United Nations Principles for Responsible Investment initiative. These criteria can be decisive in the process of selecting acquiring firms, and may even block a sale, lower a sale price, or help to better value a potential acquisition.
According to the study, buyers are increasingly sensitive to the fact that ESG issues have a direct impact on the level of competitiveness of their business. Few businesses today measure their ESG performance, or translate these values into financial figures for investors. Although the increased level of attention to ESG factors varies from one sector of activity and geographical region to another, PwC notes a certain interest in ESG evaluation on the part of buyers as well as potential sellers.
The study finds that the influence of ESG factors is continuing to increase: 63% of respondents say that they have already significantly increase their use of these criteria in the past three years, and 75% estimate that it will increase further in the next three years. In terms of environmental factors, PwC has found a rising desire on the part of businesses to control operational hazards associated with natural catastrophes, where previously, businesses had focuses predominantly on reputational risks. Now, 63% of businesses surveyed take environmental criteria into account systematically in due diligence processes of pre-transaction evaluation, while 44% use social criteria, and 38% use governance criteria.