Kate Ahern: It’s ESG All the Way for Female-led Firm Dedicated to Positive Change

Kate Ahern

Kate Ahern – Head of ESG

‘Pick good companies and then help to make them even better’ — the firm’s role, in a nutshell, by head of ESG Kate Ahern

Cartica Management is predominantly owned and led by women, and the firm’s go-ahead attitude consistently attracts professionals dedicated to positive change.

Cartica’s head of ESG, Kate Ahern, works alongside CEO Teresa Barger to lead an active-ownership approach and unlock value using ESG as a fulcrum, and a focus.

Ahern leads sustainability practice and the firm’s engagement process with portfolio companies. She is perfectly qualified for her role, with a decade-and-a-half of experience in ESG management, social impact diligence, and corporate responsibility. Before joining Cartica, she was director of ESG and communications at Bain Capital, responsible for implementing ESG across all asset classes.

Ahern has a deep understanding of her field, and that means having an awareness of potential pitfalls and problems. “I think data presents the greatest mid-term challenge to the industry,” she replies when quizzed on that, “especially in emerging markets, and for investors focused on smaller companies. ESG-related data can be spotty or non-existent.

“We need to find ways to make it easier for companies to disclose information on practices and policies so that investors can make better-informed decisions.”

Ahern believes the die has been cast when it comes to corporate responsibility — investing through an ESG lens is no fad; it’s here to stay. “The challenge now is to continue to improve how we manage ESG risks and opportunities in a way that creates value for companies, their investors, and the broader community.”

After 15 years at the top of her game, Kate Ahern is still excited about the possibilities and potential of the business world. “I think the evolving expectation that companies can — and must — be part of creating solutions to problems is thrilling,” she says. “We’re no longer thinking about government, philanthropy, and non-profits as the only groups that can improve people’s lives, and that can lead to a more sustainable world.

“We now look to the private sector to support those efforts, and in many cases to lead.”

Maintaining motivation is easy, she says. “I love the opportunity to work with my colleagues to make companies better every day. I like being part of a team that’s working to prove the model for our style of investing: pick good companies and then help to make them even better.”

That team is central to the firm’s success, and crucial to the achievement of its ESG goals. “Cartica is full of smart, interesting people who are good to each other,” Ahern says. “Most of them took a winding path to get where they are today. We have former champion tennis players and olive farm owners — I think that helps us to craft a unique perspective on where the world is going, and how we should invest.”

Can public equity investors really help companies to become more sustainable and responsive to all stakeholders — and not just shareholders? “Cartica has built a business that shows that yes, public equity investors can engage with companies to help them to improve environmental, social, and governance practices,” says Ahern, “and to improve on other areas of operations.”

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