Partnerships are a key part for our ESG strategy
At Wellstreet, our ecosystem is essential to the success of our portfolio, and our network plays a key role in our ultra hands-on approach to company building. Of course, the possibility of offering to introduce founders to incredibly knowledgeable people in our phonebook provides them with an advantage, but that’s not really what we mean when we say “we leverage our network”. It goes far beyond that. These individuals, advisors, mentors, alumni founders, collaborators, programs, co-investors and companies provide us with their time, over and over again, and often at short notice in all our different formats, to offer us insights, expertise, knowledge, connections and experience. We believe that this type of access significantly contributes to our companies’ success.
When we started developing our ESG strategy, our approach was no different: the partners we choose, the KPIs we measure and the methods to improve them would be a key factor in whether our startups could reach their full potential and future-proof themselves as thriving companies.
Working together for a common goal
As one of the first partners to Diverse Executive Boards - deb., we saw its potential from the start. This organization seeks to increase board competence and diversity by offering a forward-looking, qualitative and rewarding program that focuses on helping participants find their way into the boardroom. Diversity in the boardroom is a key area in ESG best practice, and measuring it is actually a requirement for funds operating under Article 8 of the SFDR.
"Minority groups are still underrepresented in decision-making positions, despite facts showing that diversity yields positive consequences through innovation and profit. On the other hand, there’s a competence gap and boardrooms are missing people with great potential who should be learning at the same pace as the companies move. I want more people to experience how much a diversity-focused board contributes to better corporate governance" - Hanna Moisander, deb.’s CEO.
One of the strengths of Deb is the outstanding quality of the candidates they propose for board positions, as well as the diversity in skillset and experience. We only want the best for our companies and so partnering with them was a no-brainer. We can contribute to the tough task of balancing executive boards, with no compromise on quality. Over the past couple of years, we have seen many DEB board members find their way through our network and they have all added so much value to the companies they have partnered with.
One great example was the introduction of deb.’s now alumnus Lai Kim Lim with our portfolio company Brink Commerce, which resulted in board membership. Our Partner and Fund Manager Jessica Rameau is also on Brink’s board and was really impressed when Hanna Moisander introduced Lai Kim. Her invaluable experience and expertise in global retail meant that an e-commerce company would benefit immensely from her board participation. As a result, Brink Commerce is now even better equipped to offer cutting-edge Composable Commerce solutions. Jessica commented that:
“Lai Kim’s experience and skill set is a dream come true for any retail/brand/e-commerce company’s board. I’m so humbled to be working with her on the Brink Commerce board and 2023 is already shaping up to be such an exciting year for the company!”
Deb.’s role in Wellstreet’s ESG work
The partnership deepened when we created a framework for our ESG work internally and with our portfolio. When we needed to bring the companies in and start the roll-out, we realized that there was a great opportunity for further collaboration with deb.
From their side, deb.’s program covers the immense and broad support that the board can provide to a company. So what better way to put this knowledge and expertise into action than to actually guide companies regarding ESG? “Debsters” would benefit from mastering how to approach this thorny topic with founders in the boardroom. Our founders would benefit from the guidance and support from a board professional in the exercise, and who knows, perhaps meet also their next board member match!
Running a Sustainability Risk Assessment is fundamental to understanding a company’s impact and the materiality of that impact on future value creation and so this is where we started our roll-out. We invited 18 members of deb to support us on our portfolio ESG Training Day by mentoring the companies through their risk assessment exercise. Before the training day, we spent half a day educating and preparing the mentors to ensure they were well-equipped and comfortable with the topic of ESG and our material, besides guaranteeing consistency in the risk assessment work across our portfolio.
Each mentor was matched with a founder/CEO based on industry experience or specific skillset. The feedback from the experience was very positive. Both mentors and company members were grateful and inspired to keep up the work and further cement their commitment to ESG in all company-building efforts.
We also celebrated the 2023 International Women’s Day in a joint event with deb. Even though a fierce snowstorm was unravelling outside, we had a full house! We hosted a breakfast event in a relaxed atmosphere to promote diversity on company boards.
After initial remarks and a quick introduction to the diversity subject by our chairwoman Caroline Farberger, the morning started with a panel discussion about the need and improvements that a company benefits from with such diversity, the path to creating a group of advisors and executives that support the startup's growth, and taking the next step and looking for board opportunities. After that, the floor was opened for mingling - but not an idle one! Board professionals were matched with investors and company founders in order to create meaningful connections that can generate actual change.
Huge thanks to deb. co-founders Hanna Moisander, Sara Almgren and Emelie Meurk Demerud for creating a path for gender balance with companies like us! We really value our partnership and look forward to achieving so much more together.