AC Ventures signs pacts with UN and IFC to drive gender equality, responsible investing in ASEAN
Published on September 29, 2022
Indonesia-based, early-stage venture capital firm AC Ventures (ACV) announced earlier today that it has made multiple formal commitments to the United Nations (UN) and International Finance Corporation (IFC) in a bid to drive gender equality and responsible investment practices in Southeast Asia. Each pledge comes with its own set of rigorous annual reporting mandates to remain in compliance.
The Women’s Empowerment Principles (WEPs) offer guidance to companies on how to promote gender equality and women’s empowerment in the workplace, marketplace, and community. Established by UN Global Compact and UN Women, the WEPs are informed by international labor and human rights standards and grounded in the recognition that businesses have a stake in, and responsibility for, gender equality and women’s empowerment.
WEPs are a primary vehicle for corporate delivery on gender equality dimensions of the 2030 agenda and the UN Sustainable Development Goals. By joining the WEPs community, a company signals a commitment to this agenda at the highest levels of its management. It pledges to work collaboratively in multistakeholder networks to foster business practices that empower women. These include equal pay for work of equal value, gender-responsive supply chain practices, and zero tolerance against sexual harassment in the workplace.
The UN Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI) were developed by investors, for investors, as a menu for incorporating environmental, social, and governance (ESG) best practices into investment processes. This includes factoring ESG issues into deal analysis and key decision-making, disclosing ESG issues related to existing portfolio companies, and regularly reporting on what kind of progress is being made to resolve ESG problems, both inside an investment firm and across its portfolio.
Meanwhile, Invest2Equal is an IFC-led program that brings together the corporation’s portfolio fund managers to make specific, measurable, and time-bound commitments to bolster gender diversity in the venture capital and private equity sector. It involves each signatory directly allocating capital to ensure that women are represented in leadership roles, but also in the workforce across a firm’s direct value chain of partners and investments.
Lauren Blasco, Head of ESG at AC Ventures, explained, “By aligning with these programs from the UN and IFC, my personal goal is to set AC Ventures on a clear path toward sustainability and impact at scale, through a diverse portfolio. I believe that doing this on behalf of an investment firm can provide a sweeping impact that cascades down to various levels of society, as many of our portfolio companies directly touch the lives of Indonesia’s 270 million population.
She added, “It’s interesting because venture capital and private equity players are in a unique position of leverage today. By mandating that their portfolio companies adhere to ESG best practices on par with the global standard, we can create material change for tomorrow.”
Adrian Li, Founder and Managing Partner at ACV, added, “Committing to empowering positive social and economic change is central to our mission at AC Ventures. Aligning our investment protocols with Invest2Equal, UNPRI, and the UN Women’s Empowerment Principals further underlines our actions and true belief that pursuing gender equality and sustainable business practices will build long-term value for our stakeholders in the region.”
Gender equality and impact in venture capital
As a forward-thinking investment company, ACV is committed to diversity and inclusion. Within the firm, 50% of its senior leadership roles are occupied by women. Across the portfolio, this figure comes in at 40%.
In its debut impact report, slated for publication in early October 2022, ACV partnered with Boston Consulting Group and The Upright Project in Finland to establish the first quantifiable ESG standards for Indonesia’s technology sector. The report unpacks the net impact of multiple portfolio companies and shares insights about their sectors and why they scored the way they did.
At its core, ESG is a framework for addressing long-term risks that organizations may face in years to come. In the realm of finance and investment, it’s a fast-growing vertical, and global ESG assets are likely to exceed US$41 trillion in 2022 and US$50 trillion by 2025, notes Bloomberg Intelligence.
ACV is a leading Southeast Asian venture capital firm investing in early-stage startups focused on Indonesia and ASEAN. The firm’s mission is to partner with and empower entrepreneurs with more than capital. ACV combines operational experience, industry knowledge, deep local networks, and resources to create value for startups. Its vision is to be a generational partner to founders driving positive societal change and economic impact in Indonesia and beyond.
ACV currently has over US$500 million in assets under management, invested across five funds. Since 2012, the firm’s partners have invested in more than 120 technology companies in the region, including some of the most iconic names in the ASEAN digital ecosystem. ACV’s Partners Adrian Li, Michael Soerijadji, Helen Wong, and Pandu Sjahrir lead a team of over 35 professionals with offices in Jakarta and Singapore.