Frequently Asked Questions

What is IRIS?
What is Impact Investing?
Why should I use the IRIS catalog?
What's required to use IRIS metrics?
How much does it cost to use IRIS metrics?
Who uses IRIS metrics?
How can I get started using IRIS metrics?
Does IRIS validate that my work has impact?
Are IRIS metrics compatible with other 3rd party standards?
Who manages the IRIS initiative?
How are the IRIS metrics developed and updated?
How do I provide feedback on IRIS?
How do I cite IRIS in reports?

  • What is IRIS?

    IRIS is the catalog of generally accepted performance metrics that leading impact investors use to measure social, environmental, and financial success, evaluate deals, and grow the sector’s credibility.

  • What is impact investing?

    Impact investments are investments made into companies, organizations, and funds with the intention to generate social and environmental impact alongside a financial return. Impact investments can be made in both emerging and developed markets, and target a range of returns from below market to market rate, depending upon the circumstances.

    The practice of impact investing is further defined by the following four core characteristics:


    The intent of the investor to generate social and/or environmental impact through investments is an essential component of impact investing.

    Investment with return expectations

    Impact investments are expected to generate a financial return on capital and, at a minimum, a return of capital.

    Range of return expectations and asset classes

    Impact investments generate returns that range from below market (sometimes called concessionary) to risk-adjusted market rate.

    Impact measurement

    A hallmark of impact investing is the commitment of the investor to measure and report the social and environmental performance and progress of underlying investments. Impact measurement helps ensure transparency and accountability, and is essential to informing the practice of impact investing and building the field.

  • Why should I use the IRIS catalog?

    If you are interested in tracking the performance of your investments, the IRIS catalog is your resource for selecting social, environmental, and financial metrics. The IRIS catalog pulls together the most useful metrics from across the impact investing industry and puts them in one place, making it easier to create an informed system to measure performance and reduce mistakes that could affect your credibility. Using IRIS metrics also makes it easier to compare your performance with others and communicate your results to relevant stakeholders.

  • What's required to use IRIS metrics?

    There are no requirements to use IRIS metrics. Because there is no single combination of IRIS metrics that will be right for all organizations, using IRIS does not require that all or even certain metrics are tracked. Instead, IRIS users select a set of IRIS metrics relevant to their own activities, impact objectives, and stakeholder requirements, among other potential criteria. In order to support accurate performance comparisons, users are asked to publicly cite their IRIS use.

  • How much does it cost to use IRIS metrics?

    The IRIS metrics are available for free. You can browse the IRIS catalog and use the metrics and related resources however you choose. Users are encouraged to register their IRIS use and to cite IRIS metrics in external reports and communications.

  • Who uses IRIS metrics?

    IRIS metrics are used by leading impact organizations from around the world, including investors, investment funds, enterprises, foundations, among others. Click here to view the growing list of registered IRIS users and the IRIS metrics they employ.

  • How can I get started using IRIS metrics?

    For support selecting IRIS metrics and developing an IRIS-based metrics framework, read our Getting Started with IRIS Guide. Check our library of IRIS Use Cases which describe IRIS user's experience designing and implementing an impact measurement program.

  • Does IRIS validate that my work has impact?

    The IRIS catalog does not provide judgment on whether performance is good or bad. Using IRIS metrics does not result in a certification or performance rating. Instead, IRIS metrics can be incorporated into different performance systems, such as assessment tools, proprietary scorecards, and methodologies. By incorporating IRIS metrics into these systems, investors can use different approaches and still compare performance and maximize shared learning. Learn more about 3rd party standards that are IRIS-compatible.

  • Are IRIS metrics compatible with other 3rd party standards?

    IRIS metrics complement widely-accepted standards and standard approaches to impact measurement, including those used by the Global Reporting Initiative, the International Labor Organization, and the International Financial Reporting Standards, among others. In addition to identifying and organizing the most useful and well-established metrics from across different sectors, the IRIS initiative also collaborates with many different standards-setting bodies to help create more unity and coordination across these different efforts. Some of these industry organizations have endorsed metrics from the IRIS catalog. Click here to review the IRIS metric sets endorsed by sector leaders.

  • Who manages the IRIS initiative?

    The IRIS initiative is managed by the Global Impact Investing Network (GIIN). The IRIS catalog is maintained and updated with support from an Advisory Body comprising experts in impact measurement and other relevant areas. Metrics are considered for inclusion in the IRIS catalog through a rigorous process that involves input and consultation from a broad and diverse group of stakeholders. Users wishing to provide feedback can do so by clicking the “Feedback” link in the footer of each page on the IRIS website, or reaching out directly to the IRIS initiative by e-mailing

  • How are the IRIS metrics developed and updated?

    An Advisory Body comprising leaders in the impact investing industry oversees the evolution of the IRIS catalog. The metrics are updated every two years through an iterative review process that involves objective consideration of recommendations and comments provided by various stakeholders. This enables the IRIS catalog to evolve in line with industry best practices, at the guidance of expert advisors, and as partner systems are updated. Click here for more detail about the processes and principles that oversee metrics creation. Because new iterations of the IRIS catalog always build on preceding versions, users can adopt IRIS metrics immediately without concern. Any changes to existing metrics are adapted into the IRIS catalog only after extensive consultations with experts and users. IRIS users are encouraged to register their use and publicly share the IRIS metrics they use. Doing so enables the IRIS initiative to share updates with each IRIS user when their selected metrics are updated.

  • How do I provide feedback on IRIS?

    The ultimate success of the IRIS initiative depends on feedback and suggestions from industry organizations and individuals using and interacting with the IRIS catalog. The IRIS website has been designed to allow visitors to provide comments about any of the existing metrics and also suggest new ones by selecting the ‘Feedback’ link in the footer of each page, or at the bottom of all metrics definitions. Comments provided through the website are reviewed and logged for the planning of future IRIS versions. Visitors can also send feedback or questions directly to the IRIS initiative by e-mailing

  • How do I cite IRIS in reports?

    metrics allows stakeholders to communicate clearly that they are using IRIS, the IRIS metric they are using and what version of the IRIS catalog they are referencing. When using IRIS metrics in public materials such as impact reports or dashboards, users should clearly reference the IRIS metrics using the following style guideline.

    IRIS, Year. Metric Name (Metric ID). IRIS Version.

    Example: IRIS, 2014. Sales from Exports (PI5920). v.3.0.

    Each metric page in the IRIS Metrics section of the website indicates the citation.