MJ Hudson acquires ESG operation of Dutch consultancy

30 July 2019 Consultancy.eu 4 min. read

MJ Hudson has acquired the responsible investment and environmental, social and governance (ESG) operations of Spring Associates, a boutique Dutch consulting firm. The arm has been rebranded as MJ Hudson Spring. 

Spring Associates was founded in 2005 by two former consultants of Strategy& (at the time Booz & Company) – Matthijs Baan and Ebel Kemeling. Since its early days, the consulting firm focused on sustainability and energy topics, and in particular on environmental, social and governance consultancy services. 

In the sustainability and ESG domain, the firm works mainly for private equity firms, helping them integrate ESG into their investment processes, and supporting their portfolio companies with ESG risk management. During transactions, the management consultancy supports financial investors (and corporates) with ESG screening and due diligence services. The team also supports fund managers and institutional investors with monitoring and reporting on ESG risks. More than 200 clients have been advised since founding.

One of the high-profile projects Spring Associates worked on in the Netherlands was a study for Greenpeace and local environmental organisation Wise. In 2016, the consulting firm was commissioned to explore the future of the nuclear plant in Borssele, the last remaining operational nuclear power plant in the country. The consultants found that it would be better for the nuclear power plant to be dismantled a considerable period after closing (instead of a simultaneous approach). They further revealed that the entire operation would be more costly than initially budgeted. Spring Associates’ study made the headlines of major media outlets, and even stirred a political debate in the House of Representatives. 

MJ Hudson acquires ESG operation of Dutch consultancy

MJ Hudson Spring

The deal with MJ Hudson sees all ESG team members of the Amsterdam-based consultancy join the UK-based services provider to the asset and wealth management industry. The practice has rebranded as MJ Hudson Spring, and will continue to be led by Baan and Kemeling. Asked about the rationale behind the joining of forces, Baan said, “We have ambitious plans for expansion. In MJ Hudson, we have found an ideal business partner for the next phase of our growth, as we scale our business beyond northern Europe.”

The deal comes at a time of growing interest in environmental, social and governance services. In a study by EY, over 80% of executives and investors agreed that more focus needs to be placed on ESG in strategies and investments. Leaders of private equity firms have voiced similar concerns, with over half of financial sponsors now actively committed to investing responsibly, according to a survey by PwC. Against the backdrop, firms are grappling with how to balance the need for ESG-driven change with maintaining profitability.

“We have entered a new era of asset management, where ESG has become, rightly, a business critical issue for fund managers and investors. Northern Europe has made the early running, but continued pressure from stakeholders and regulators means that other markets, including North America, are not far behind. We believe that the combination of the Spring team’s impact and ESG expertise with MJ Hudson’s global asset management network is an extremely compelling proposition,” remarked MJ Hudson’s chief executive Matthew Hudson. 

MJ Hudson Spring will work closely with MJ Hudson professionals that are already active in ESG consultancy – the British group has been advising its clients on ESG factors for a number of years and recently produced a well-received piece of thought leadership on implementing ESG policies in private equity. 

The deal in the Netherlands is MJ Hudson’s second in the space of six months. In December last year, the company bought Amaces, a data & analytics and benchmarking specialist with offices in North America and Europe. 

Terms and conditions of the deal, as well as the dealmakers involved, have not been disclosed. Spring Associates remains active with its brand in the other consulting areas, including strategic advice, energy transition, sustainability innovation and venturing.