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Since leaving political office and joining the asset management industry, former U.S. vice president Al Gore Jr. has learned not to tempt the fates. Asset managers, he has discovered, are a superstitious bunch. “My own impulse is to knock on wood,” Gore, 67, tells Institutional Investor. “I do that a lot more now.”

Gore’s business partner David Blood, with whom he founded $12.2 billion, London-based Generation Investment Management in 2004, is also a worrier. Blood is concerned about hubris. The former head of Goldman Sachs Asset Management hates to boast about Generation’s success. “I am very reluctant to talk about performance,” says Blood, 56. “In some respects because I am suspicious.”

Blood’s reticence is not just old-school paranoia; it is a reflection of the principles on which Generation was built. The firm is dedicated to investing in sustainable businesses. One of its bedrock beliefs is that companies and investors should be focused on the long term, not lurching from quarter to quarter or fixating on the size of their annual bonuses. Generation is designed to encourage long-term thinking. That includes an incentive fee structure that defers payment for three years or longer, and a compensation structure to match.

When Blood and Gore founded Generation, they intended to lead by example. They wanted to prove that an approach to investing that concentrates on things other than the immediate bottom line can work. Specifically, they wanted to demonstrate that when companies pay close attention to factors such as the environment, social responsibility and corporate governance (commonly called ESG), they improve their profitability. As Blood puts it, “Our objective is to try to help make the business case for sustainable investing.”

Nothing speaks louder than results, and Generation has the numbers to back up its principles. The firm’s flagship investment vehicle, an $11 billion long-only global equity strategy, celebrated its ten-year anniversary this spring and has an annualized return since inception of 12.14 percent, according to data provider eVestment. That’s a whopping 559 basis points a year more than the MSCI World Index for a period that saw the collapse of the subprime mortgage market, the global credit crisis, economic upheaval in Europe, China’s ascent to become the world’s second-largest economy and the growing recognition of the economic and social ramifications of climate change.