Taskforce on Growing a Culture of Social Impact Investing launch call for evidence

7 June, 2018

In 2016, the UK government set up an independent Advisory Group to answer an important question:

How can the providers of savings, pensions and investments engage with individuals to enable them to support more easily the things they care about through their savings and investment choices?

In November 2017, the Advisory Group published their report, Growing a Culture of Social Impact Investing in the UK, which provides recommendations grouped around five action areas, including one, around developing better reporting of non-financial outcomes.

I’m pleased to be co-leading the response, with Olivia Dickson. The aim is to synthesise views on this topic so that by November there are clear options for coalescence towards a harmonised approach for businesses, social enterprises, charities and investors to report their impact on people (social impact) and planet (environmental impact).

Increasingly, businesses recognise that their contribution to wider society is a critical component of their success, and are looking to hold themselves accountable for delivering positive social and environmental impact over time. Research over decades demonstrates that reporting influences actions, but the lack of commonality in the way social and environmental impact is reported makes it difficult for the community of providers and stewards of investment and savings products, to develop products that consider social and environmental impact. As a consequence, members of the public are unable to make choices on this basis.

The key challenges are as follows:

  1. Shared language for impact: A common language for reporting impact is lacking, this results in inefficient and arbitrary selection of the ‘best fit’ impact reporting framework for the specific context (across sectors, geography, investment and impact types at entity and portfolio level).
  2. Visibility of impact: Reporting of impact, alongside financial performance, is minimal. This is inhibiting the understanding of long-term business value that comes from the pursuit of impact alongside profit.
  3. Comparability of actual and forecast impact: Comparability of impact across organisations is limited, due in part to the lack of standard methods and measures, and the number of competing approaches, none of which are comprehensive.
  4. Confidence in impact as a measure of performance: Confidence in impact driven investing is limited as actual returns for society are hard to measure. One of the big challenges of impact measurement is that it requires data from outside the company’s walls.

To help consider an approach to address these challenges, we are launching a call for evidence, focused on gathering views related to challenges 1 to 3.

Olivia and I are hoping that through this call for evidence, we will gather the latest insight into current experiences of and approaches to reporting social and environmental impact. This will inform a mapping of the current landscape of impact reporting, which will, in turn, inform the exploration of options for coalescence towards a harmonised approach.

The questionnaire comprises 20 questions, designed to collect evidence around four key areas, namely:

– Existing definition(s) of impact
– Existing challenges to reporting social and environmental impact
– Perspectives on existing approaches to reporting social and environmental impact
– Perspectives on coalescing towards a more harmonised approach

The call for evidence is now live and will close on 30th June. Responses will provide input towards an interim report to Government in the Summer and directly inform the next phase of work.

I would welcome anyone who feels they could contribute to this discussion to visit the Taskforce’s website to respond to the call for evidence here.