In 2019, the GIIN released the IRIS+ system. Designed with input from hundreds of leading impact investing practitioners from around the world, the GIIN offers the IRIS+ system so investors and companies will have a common understanding of how to effectively measure and manage their impact and clarity for how to improve that impact over time.
In the same way that the accountancy profession has standardized accounting principles with GAAP, IRIS+ provides a generally accepted impact accounting system. IRIS+ combines impact investing’s most widely used impact performance metrics with research, evidence, and practical implementation guidance into a single, curated system.
The IRIS Catalog of Metrics is one component of the IRIS+ system. The GIIN has managed the IRIS Catalog of Metrics since 2009. Prior to that, IRIS was jointly managed by The Rockefeller Foundation, Acumen, and B Lab, which began development of the Catalog of IRIS Metrics in early 2008 with technical support from Hitachi, Deloitte, and PricewaterhouseCoopers.
In 2008, the Rockefeller Foundation gathered a group of pioneering impact investors to identify and begin to address critical barriers to investing for social and environmental impact, while also expecting a financial return. These investors, many of whom became the founding members of the Global Impact Investing Network (GIIN) Investors’ Council identified a lack of transparency and credibility in how funds define, track, and report the social and environmental performance of their portfolios. This scarcity of consistent, credible non-financial performance information also prevented fair comparisons between impact investing opportunities, development of social and environmental performance benchmarks, and other aggregate industry analyses. To address these challenges, The Rockefeller Foundation, Acumen and B Lab began efforts to create common metrics for reporting the performance of impact capital. The IRIS Catalog of Metrics, one component of today’s IRIS+ system, was founded.
3rd Party Standards
Acknowledging that significant progress had already been made in sectors like microfinance where standardized metrics, data aggregation, and rating tools had already been developed, the founders mandated that the IRIS Catalog of Metrics incorporate and build on these sector-specific efforts in order to provide a common language that enables comparison and communication across the breadth of organizations that prioritize social or environmental impact. As a result, the metrics in the IRIS catalog align with over 50 standards and / or analytics platforms and counting. Read more about our standards alignment.
The GIIN’s Role
In late 2009, the GIIN became the home of the IRIS Catalog of Metrics and industry efforts to build crucial impact measurement & management infrastructure.
In 2011, 29 leading impact investors signed a letter of support for the Catalog of IRIS Metrics, recognizing standardized social and environmental performance as an industry best practice and strongly encouraging peer “impact investment funds and their portfolio companies to adopt IRIS Metrics for their performance reporting.”
For more information about the role the GIIN sought to play as of a decade ago in the emergence of standards like IRIS and IRIS+ in impact investing, read the MIT Innovations article How Standards Emerge: The Role of Investor Leadership in Realizing the Potential of IRIS.
For more information on the GIIN’s role today and vision for the future of impact investing and the role that standards such as IRIS+ will play, read the Roadmap for the Future of Impact Investing. Among other actions, the Roadmap calls for efforts to “strengthen the identity of impact investing by establishing clear principles and standards for practice, such as by more clearly articulating the defining characteristics of an impact investor, developing standardized best practices for impact measurement and management, and facilitating collaboration among investors with different goals and preferences.” The IRIS+ system squarely addresses this key action to advance the vision for impact investing.