These are issues that I believe impact investment professionals will grapple with for the foreseeable future:
Impact Measurement. There is still no clear consensus on how to measure the social impact of impact investments. A number of methodologies have been developed, each seeking to create a standard that can be used across a wide range of investments.
- IRIS is a catalog of impact metrics managed by the Global Impact Investor Network. IRIS is intended to provide a common language for measuring social, environmental and finance performance.
- GIIRS ratings, developed by B Analytics uses the B Impact Assessment to rate the impact of a given investment or portfolio. The GIIRS rating includes an Overall Impact Business Model Rating, Overall Operations Rating and a Fund Manager Assessment.
- The UN Global Compact measures companies’ performance in meeting universally recognized standards of human rights, labor, the environment, and anti-corruption. The Global Compact also encourages alignment with the UN Sustainable Development Goals.
In addition, several organizations have their own impact measurement methods tailored to suit their specific circumstances. Impact investors and social enterprises will need people who can sort through these methodologies, and understand how to apply them to their organizations.
“Mainstreaming” of Impact Investments. When will impact investing become the norm? Will companies ever report social results alongside financial results as a matter of course?
Based on my experience at the IBL workshop, much of impact investing mirrors the startup world, involving relatively young and small companies whose value proposition includes some form of groundbreaking innovation. One sign of mainstreaming will be when we see larger, institution-sized impact investments. In addition, one wonders if we will see established, Fortune 500 companies reporting social impact results. These are companies that have tremendous influence on the global economy, the global workforce, and on communities and municipalities. They usually discuss their interactions with stakeholders in their annual reports, but that is not the same as an objective measurement of impact. How will impact influence executive compensation? Firm value? Corporate governance? Professional recruitment? These questions are being asked and discussed but the answers are still some distance away.