Impact is the new language of business.

It refers to the combined environmental, social, and economic contributions of well-managed and ethical businesses.

When managed well, impact also creates measurable business value - such as through improved reputation, market share, license to operate, customer loyalty, staff motivation, efficiency, and product innovation.

Investors increasingly use impact as a key criterion in their funding decisions.

Connect with our community of passionate and creative experts to adapt your business to this new landscape.

Our Services

Designing impact systems

Developing practical policies and procedures to manage environmental, social and governance (ESG) performance in line with international best practice.



Building impact know-how

Delivering in-house training and strategy workshops for executives and staff.



Assessment and Audit

ESG due diligence and impact verification to help investors and management teams make better decisions.



Research

Deep-dive analysis of the latest trends inspiring sustainable finance.



Expertise

Louise Gardiner


Founder, First Principles.

Louise is a sustainability innovator with 20 years of international experience changing how the private sector thinks about value creation through positive impact.

Specialising in sustainable finance, she has worked with stakeholders throughout the financial sector, including institutional investors, development finance institutions, banks, and private equity funds to raise awareness and capacity on emerging trends.

Louise brings a creative mindset to designing policies and systems that help investors and businesses manage environmental, social and governance (ESG) performance. She is an experienced trainer, facilitator, and stakeholder engagement specialist.

Louise established First Principles in 2010 to help drive higher ESG standards and innovation by businesses and investors in Africa. This led to a collaboration in 2019 to develop the ESG Tracker ( www.esgtracker.com ), a unique online platform for ESG assessment and continuous improvement that is tailored to private equity investments in emerging markets. First Principles now works with clients in South Africa, Kenya, North America, and China to assess and improve ESG and impact in private equity.

Prior to First Principles, Louise joined IFC - part of the World Bank Group - in 2005 and since then has worked on a wide range of IFC projects across Asia, Africa, Eastern Europe, and Latin America, to promote sustainable finance practices in emerging markets.

Louise prepared IFC's 2005 Sustainability Report and helped develop IFC's first Integrated Annual Reports in 2007 and 2008. She developed an advisory program on sustainability disclosure for IFC clients in 2009, including a partnership with the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI). In 2011, she collaborated on innovative research to assess the link between ESG and financial performance in IFC’s investment portfolio, which demonstrated the outperformance of companies that are sustainability leaders.

Since 2012, she has provided strategy and stakeholder engagement support to the Secretariat for the IFC-facilitated Sustainable Banking Network (SBN), ( www.ifc.org/sbn ).

Louise holds an MA in International Relations from the University of Kent in Canterbury.



Zoe Lees


Associate, First Principles.

Zoe has over 24 years of experience working in government, business, finance, investment, entrepreneurship, NGOs, and academia across a wide range of sustainability topics and industry sub-sectors in South Africa and throughout Africa. The common thread has always been to demonstrate the long-term value of applying sustainability to decision-making, particularly within developing country contexts

Zoe has spent the past 7.5 years consulting to IFC, part of the World Bank Group, providing risk and impact support on environmental, social, and governance (ESG) performance for IFC’s investments in Africa. She is also currently a Senior Advisor to FMO (the Dutch Development Bank) on ESG in Private Equity investments, and Financial Intermediaries.

Zoe previously headed up the Environmental Directorate for Gauteng Province in the new democratic government (1995-1999); and was Executive Director of the Business Council for Sustainable Development in South Africa (1999-2003), the local partner to the prestigious World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD).

She also co-founded the first Socially Responsible Index (JSE-SRI) in emerging markets with the Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE). Having served on a wide range of corporate and advisory boards, she achieved her Certified Directorship accreditation in 2011 and is currently working towards her Chartered Directorship.



Robin Gilbert Jones


Associate, First Principles.

Robin brings 10 years of experience as a research and stakeholder engagement consultant, specifically in the areas of corporate reputation, corporate social responsibility (CSR), brand, and sustainability, with particular focus on the developing world.

Robin is skilled in data analysis and interpretation, research design, and quantitative and qualitative research methodologies. As an independent consultant, he has mentored companies on integrating research techniques into their work to develop robust and evidence-based strategies, with a particular focus on sustainability and impact initiatives.

Robin co-designed First Principles’ flagship tool, the ESG Tracker, which empowers clients and partners to manage ESG risk and maximise positive impact across their operations. He was formerly a Senior Research Analyst with Canadian research consultancy, GlobeScan, working across the sustainability, reputation, brand and stakeholder engagement teams. He co-designed GlobeScan’s bespoke stakeholder engagement methodology.

Robin is an experienced writer, having authored and co-authored multiple thought leadership papers. He holds an MA in Global and Comparative Politics, Queen Mary University of London.



Honglin (Holly) Li.


Associate, First Principles

Based in Washington DC, Honglin is an environmental, social, and governance (ESG) policy expert with over a decade of international experience in research, policy design, project management, and capacity building.

She specializes in supporting private sector clients to align their internal policies and procedures with international standards and best practice in ways that fit with business strategy, project characteristics, and country context.

Honglin has an LL.B. from Sun Yat-Sen University Law School in China and an LL.M. from New York University Law School in the US. She has published seven peer-reviewed journal articles, in either Chinese and English. Honglin is a licensed attorney and a certified Project Management Professional.



Mischa Minné


Associate, First Principles.

Mischa is a monitoring and evaluation, and social performance consultant with an MPhil in Climate Change and Development from the University of Cape Town.

Mischa brings over seven years combined sustainability and social consulting experience within a tier-one global sustainability consultancy and as an independent consultant.

Mischa has specialist knowledge in developing outcomes-based monitoring and evaluation frameworks, including theory of change models and impact pathways.

Most recently Mischa led the development of a monitoring and evaluation and social outcomes measurement framework for private equity, to evaluate the effectiveness of socio economic and enterprise development programmes in the renewable energy sector in South Africa, appraising R10 million in social investments, reaching over 5000 community beneficiaries.

Mischa has also been involved in numerous due diligence exercises in the role of social specialist, with a particular focus on targets in the renewable energy sector, as well as spanning oil and gas, power, and consumer goods across Nigeria, Ghana and South Africa.