There is an emerging zeitgeist in the investment community: society’s goal should be to create an environmentally sustainable economy that is healthy and dignified for all people. This view represents a fundamental shift in the definition of “investment.” At its heart is a dawning awareness—grounded in evidence — of both the cost of not considering environmental sustainability and social impact, and the benefit of doing so. Since capital is arguably the fuel of the economy, those who identify with this zeitgeist believe investors have a fundamental role to play in bringing the more perfect economy into being.
The literature on social impact is diverse and much of it is focused on a specific topic such as impact investment, collective impact and impact evaluation. Despite the eclecticism, they share a common quest to understand what has worked, what are critical factors and barriers to achieving impact, and whether an intervention is replicable and scalable. Achieving positive sustainable impact is the raison d'être and the bottom line of our work. But too often we get fixated with operational demands, focusing on the urgent rather than the important. There is no magic bullet to achieve impact. It is a continuous process reflecting, doing, and learning.
Over recent years there has been a tremendous upsurge in demand for organisations — across both charitable and commercial sectors — to provide more information about their social and environmental impact. For social-purpose organisations, these developments have brought considerable opportunities as well as some new pressures. While effective impact reporting should allow organisations to tell their story more fully, a lack of standardised procedures has often made the task seem complicated, and even daunting. At its core, impact measurement seeks to gather crucial information about an organisation’s activities, and use it to relate the overall change brought about to people’s lives and the environment over a particular period of time. As such it offers value on four key fronts, represented by its four primary readers.