Various resources are available to assist impact investors in measuring and managing their investments. However, one size does not fit all regarding IMM practices.
This how-to guide highlights the different approaches, tools, and challenges in quantifying social and environmental impact. It also guides establishing and using an impact framework or theory of change.
While demonstrating impact is essential, it shouldn’t be the end goal. A big part of impact measurement and management methodology is understanding how to get better, and the only way to do that is to collect and evaluate your data regularly.
When a company does this, it can identify the impact its business model has had (both positive and negative) on people and the planet and identify areas where it can improve. It enables them to create more impact and make the most of what they already have.
Many organizations need help balancing between collecting and analyzing data for their impacts and meeting short-term and long-term objectives. Finding a balance between lag and lead data, qualitative and quantitative information, internal and external data, and other factors can be challenging.
In addition, the pressure to prove impact has led to some organizations collecting too much data that they need help to analyze and to over-focus on proving their impacts rather than how to increase them. It can result in an expensive, time-consuming process of gathering and analyzing information to demonstrate impact that could be more useful, or at best only of limited value, to the organization. Good impact evaluations help us to understand why something works, but they are only sometimes worth the effort and expense when a program has no hope of being replicated or scaled up.
In a business world that is not entombed in a cocoon where nothing wrong ever happens, it’s essential to consider all of the impact implications of a decision before taking it. It is particularly true in the case of impact measurement and management (IMM).
The best practice for IMM involves embedding impact considerations throughout the investment process, establishing clear goals and objectives, collecting and analyzing impact data, communicating impact to stakeholders, and continually evaluating and adapting impact goals and objectives to changing social and environmental conditions. The GIIN’s IMM guidelines provide a set of best practices for impact measurement and management that can help investors do just this.
Aside from assessing risks and detecting failures, Impact Analysis can help businesses develop strategic recovery processes. It can help them work on a step-by-step business recovery plan to withdraw losses and enhance their profit-making ability in the long run. It can also help them develop new applications for their products and services.
However, it is essential to remember that this kind of assessment is not an absolute science. In a globalized economy, every action has an equal and opposite reaction. Therefore, it’s essential to understand that the world is so interconnected that a sneeze in one place can make another person catch a cold. It is vital to consider all possible impact implications of a decision before taking it.
A clear articulation of impact can help to attract new investors, improve business operations, and make better decisions to benefit stakeholders. It can also communicate the company’s value to customers and employees.
When reporting, it is essential to include both the positive and negative impacts of a company’s work on society. This information should be gathered and analyzed to determine how to mitigate harmful impacts. It is also critical to provide measurable evidence that shows a company’s impact on society. It can be achieved by analyzing the company’s outcomes, outputs, activities, and inputs. Companies can use this information to evaluate whether they are achieving their intended goals.
This information can be reported through a company’s website, social media accounts, and other publications. Ideally, this information should be updated regularly. It will ensure that investors know the company’s progress and that it is moving positively.
An impact report should include feedback, case studies, survey results, and even anecdotal evidence to support the claims made in the data. Anecdotes are especially effective at encouraging further action or decision-making since they can be more relatable than numbers and statistics. However, it is crucial to avoid anecdotes that are unsubstantiated or biased. An anecdote not based on reliable evidence can mislead investors and lead to poor investments or inaccurate assumptions.
An essential step in impact measurement is defining and implementing an impact framework. It provides a structure for understanding, evaluating, and reporting the tangible changes that result from your activities. Getting this right is critical to aligning your impact with your strategic vision and demonstrating that you are making a real difference.
In defining an impact framework, you’ll have to decide which outputs are most important to measure (considering your resources, tools, people, and time) and what methods to use for measuring those. Depending on your funding levels, you may need to think about whether to use the more expensive data collection tools such as household surveys and randomized evaluations or if you can answer some key impact questions with cheaper management data (for example, by calculating how many products your project has reached and measuring customer loyalty).
The bottom line is that right-fit evidence systems help organizations learn and improve. They also contribute to the generalized knowledge base that tells us what works and in which contexts so good programs can be replicated and poor ones retired.
Measuring the impact of your company’s actions on society is super helpful in many ways. For example, it helps you figure out how to do even better, be more accountable and honest with yourself, and show everyone your incredible work!