Has there been much discussion around the role of private equity as a tool for directly intervening in a cause area?

This example came to mind while going back to Lewis Bollard’s first appearance on 80k Hours:

Instead of trying to infiltrate workers into a factory farm or slaughterhouse, why not buy the entire operation and have unlimited access to documenting its practices? There could be a livestream, interviews with workers about their working and living conditions, public tours for the media, students, public officials, etc.

Based on the Leah Garcés episode, it seems like there are many chicken farmers who would be happy to sell their business. I’m guessing one could be purchased for a few hundred thousand to at most a couple of million USD, depending on size/quality. Slaughterhouses are presumably more expensive, but they may have the advantage of being closer to medium-sized cities, with greater opportunity for collaborating with schools and businesses to organize tours.

A second phase of the intervention would be improving the animal welfare standards at the facility, with an aim to raising  industry standards more generally, and eventually selling the business.





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You might be interested in some of what we're doing with the Consumer Power Initiative.

One approach is by using company equity to cause the company to engage in pro-social or displacement antisocial corporate activity.

Another, perhaps complementary, approach is to advertisement pro-social use of profits (even 100%) to get an advantage with consumers. The below essay goes into it. Feel free to reach out for potential collaboration opportunities (pro-social economic behavior +pro-social use of profits and advertising of it) : Brad@consumerpowerinitiative.org


(Background: I work in PE and have previously worked in public equities aka asset management) There are quite a few good articles here: https://forum.effectivealtruism.org/topics/socially-responsible-investing. In general, I would say that ESG is hard - hard to do right, hard to measure the impact, hard to communicate. If you owned 100% of a slaughterhouse, it's not obvious what you should do. As Lewis has implicitly acknowledged, you can't simply shut it down (because another one would simply open up down the road and you've just blown a load of money). The smartest idea is probably to run it with basic ethical improvements. However, if you deviate too much from standard practice, you will quickly become uneconomical. If you're uneconomical, you will either go out of business or will need ongoing subsidy in the form of donations. The second-order effects are difficult to quantify. If EA started buying up slaughterhouses, then theoretically this would lead to more demand for slaughterhouses, a lower cost of capital, a lower cost for meat and ultimately more meat consumption! I'm not intending to get into a debate about this specific example here. I'm sure some very smart people will point out the errors of my comments above. However, I do hope it shows how even a simple example can end up being quite complex.