Standards Development Process & Principles

IRIS+ System

In June 2018, the GIIN launched three working groups to help inform the evolution of IRIS into IRIS+. These working groups represented different types of stakeholders and included: Asset Owners, Asset Managers, and Service Providers. The Working Groups were charged with informing the development of the IRIS+ System which included the revision of the IRIS taxonomy into IRIS+ thematic taxonomy, the development of Core Metrics Sets for six different Investment Themes, and the development of implementation guidance.

At launch in May 2019, over 800 stakeholders had provided feedback to inform the development of IRIS+. All feedback was reviewed on a rolling basis by the Global Impact Investing Network (GIIN) and final recommendations were presented to the standing IRIS+ Advisory Committee. The IRIS+ system was released in 2019 and will be updated on an ongoing basis henceforth through input from regularly convened topical Expert Groups and the materials produced through the Navigating Impact project, public comment periods for newly developed Core Metrics Sets, and feedback on IRIS+ adoption from the IRIS+ Working Group, as well as other formal channels.


The Global Impact Investing Network (GIIN), which oversees the IRIS+ system, has assembled a formal Advisory Body to support the ongoing development IRIS+. The IRIS+ Advisory Body is comprised of leaders in impact investing and impact measurement & management with representatives from the different impact investing stakeholder groups including investors, standards setters, data providers, evaluators, and industry networks among others.

Updates to the IRIS+ system are released on an ongoing basis and include the following:

  1. Updates to existing IRIS metrics based on:
    • priorities identified by the IRIS Advisory Body and other stakeholders
    • coverage of new Impact Themes and Strategic Goals in IRIS+
    • alignments with other standard bodies with which IRIS+ has a linkage
  2. Additions of new metrics in areas where gaps are identified, based on evidence and best practice, as identified through the Navigating Impact project and vetted through public comment periods
  3. Enhancement and development of new guidance and recommended resources to support implementation of IRIS metrics and IRIS+ Core Metrics Sets

Updates mentioned above are not material and are conducted on an ongoing basis. Upgrades to IRIS+, involving material changes to the system, are conducted every three to five years according to market needs and follow a rigorous standards-setting principles and processes.


The development of the IRIS+ system is managed in accordance with best practices for standards development. The IRIS+ system and standards development process adheres to the practices outlined in the principles below:

Stakeholder Engagement and Balance of Interests

The GIIN develops new content such as metrics, indicators, guidance and other technical material with the participation of multiple stakeholders. These stakeholders may be investors, businesses, topic experts, representatives of other standard-setting bodies, or others with relevant domain expertise. While the IRIS+ system  primarily serves the investor community, the GIIN solicits inputs from individuals and organizations with a diverse set of interests. The IRIS+ Advisory Body provides guidance on the evolution of the IRIS+ system. The GIIN also engages Expert Groups to provide input in specific topic areas. The recommendations developed by the Expert Groups are reviewed by the GIIN, the IRIS+ Advisory Body, other key stakeholders, and finally through an open Public Comment Period before being added to the IRIS+ system.

Public Comment and Meaningful Opportunities to Contribute

The IRIS+ website offers the public a forum in which to provide feedback on the content and technical materials in the IRIS+ system. All input with directive feedback, new metrics, indicators, guidance or resource suggestions are logged and considered when the GIIN prepares updates to the IRIS+ system. IRIS+ working groups inform specific content areas and uptake on an ongoing basis. Public comment periods for Core Metrics Sets and guidance are open to all interested.


The GIIN is public about the standards development process and the individuals that are participants in IRIS+ Expert Groups. Edits and additions  made to the IRIS+ system are done through a 30+ day public comment period. Anyone can access draft versions of the proposed content that clearly indicates edit and additions. Registered users are informed of forthcoming updates and provided materials that show any changes to Core Metrics Sets and other content that they have listed in their IRIS+ profiles.

Additive Value and Consistency with Other Frameworks

IRIS+ provides the generally-accepted impact accounting system and therefore serves as a meta-standard, aggregating and building on relevant metrics, evidence, best practices, and tools  from across the impact investing industry, and partnering with other standards bodies wherever possible to encourage greater alignment in the way impact is integrated in investment management.  In addition to standards setter partners with which IRIS has formal alignment guidance, IRIS+ was built with shared expertise from hundreds of other organizations and standards. This input and formal alignment formed basis for Core Metrics Sets, indicators, definitions, and usage guidance for the IRIS+ System.

Thematic Taxonomy

Poorly harmonized definitions of common terms and impact investing themes have prevented impact investors from communicating and comparing impact performance. To establish a common language, the IRIS+ thematic taxonomy offers generally accepted definitions of Impact Categories and Impact Themes and identifies common goals and Core Metrics Sets by theme, thereby providing a shared language for describing, assessing, communicating, and ultimately comparing impact performance.

Over time, IRIS+ will offer a growing list of curated Core Metrics Sets to help impact investors develop their own comprehensive assessment of both positive and negative effects according to Impact Category, Impact Theme, and Strategic Goal, rather than focus on single positive or negative effects delivered by each.

For further details, view guidance on IRIS+ Thematic Taxonomy.

Core Metrics Sets

IRIS+ Core Metrics Sets are short lists of key impact performance indicators—built on standard IRIS metrics and backed by evidence and best practice—that impact investors can use to assess the effects of their investments.

For further details, view guidance on IRIS+ Core Metrics Sets

Individual Metric Structure

Individual IRIS metrics are designed and structured to ensure that they reflect data that is feasible to collect, decision-relevant, and useful for aggregate analysis.