Paul Polman (left) and Rikke Kjær Nielsen, EQT

EQT has appointed four high-profile business and finance figures to a ‘mission board’ overseeing the firm’s impact fund.

They join mission board co-chairs Paul Polman, former chief executive of Unilever, and Swedish banking veteran Jacob Wallenberg. The mission board has input in all investments by EQT’s Future fund, which it launched in October 2021 with a €4 billion fundraising target.

Mission board members include Ho Ching, former chief executive of Singapore’s state-backed investor Temasek and chair of the Temasek Trust; Naina Lal Kidwai, former country head of HSBC India and executive director of HSBC Asia Pacific; Svein Tore Holsether, president and chief executive of chemical company Yara International; and Hedda Pahlson-Moller, chief executive of impact investing advisory firm, who joins as impact director on the mission board.

EQT Future is a private equity impact fund with a mandate to transform the sustainability performance of mature companies with turnovers of over €400 million and “market-shaping impact potential”.  Its 12-year fund life is slightly longer than the typical 10-year fund term, to allow time for such transformations.

For now, the fund has three core sustainability objectives for its investments: reducing greenhouse gas emissions; improving employee wellbeing; and increasing gender diversity among companies’ key decision-makers. But the newly appointed mission board may re-evaluate and add to these goals in future, Rikke Kjær Nielsen, partner at EQT, told New Private Markets: “We have our mission board to challenge and coach us and spur us on. Hopefully in five or three years’ time, we will be able to raise the bar on our impact agenda even further relative to where it is today.”

Polman added: “The mission board is an important element that gives the impact fund a lot of credibility.”

Speaking about why he moved to private markets after 10 years as chief executive of Unilever, a publicly listed company, Polman said: “EQT has several hundred companies with billions under management. That’s a bigger influence than I could have had in a company like Unilever when I was running it. We cannot change the economic system if we don’t have the private sector step up. It’s so important to work with the private equity industry.”