Impact Investing Glossary

Nicole Sara Sivens
July 13, 2017
10 min read
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Figuring out all the abbreviations used when discussing impact investing can be tough. Here's a handy guide.

ESG SRI Impact Investing Abacus

AYS: As You Sow

A non-profit that promotes environmental and social corporate responsibility through shareholder advocacy, coalition building, and innovative legal strategies.

CDFI: Community Development Finance Institution

These are institutions that seek to reduce poverty in economically depressed areas through credit, financial, and other services.

CSR: Corporate Social Responsibility

A management concept where companies integrate social and environmental concerns into their business model. The goal is to embrace responsibility for how a company’s business activities impact people and the planet.

ESG: Environment, Social, and Governance

ESG issues are central to measuring the sustainability and ethical impacts of a company.

GIIN: Global Impact Investing Network

This network drives thought leadership on a variety of key topics and themes within the impact investing industry.

GIIRS: Global Impact Investing Ratings System

This assesses the social and environmental impact (but not the financial performance) of companies and funds, using a ratings method.

GSIA: Global Sustainable Investment Alliance

A collaboration of membership-based sustainable investment organizations from around the world.

IRIS: Impact Reporting and Investment Standards

A set of standardized metrics that can be used to describe an organization’s social, environmental, and financial performance. These are increasingly accepted by the impact industry as a universally accepted set of measurement principles.

KPI: Key Performance Indicators

KPIs are a commonly used measurable value by which an organization can evaluate its success or the success of a particular activity.

MDG: Millennium Development Goals

These 8 international development goals were established following the United Nations Millennium Summit in 2000 with measurable targets and clear deadlines for improving the lives of the world's poorest people. . They’ve since been updated by the 2016 UN SDGs.

MFI: Microfinance Institution

Any kind of financial institution that provides banking products and services to low-income clients.

MRI: Mission-Related Investment

An investment made using assets from a foundation’s endowment to create social impact as well as financial returns.

PRI: Program-Related Investment

An investment made by a foundation that qualifies as a charitable expense. They may then include the investment as part of the 5% of assets it distributes philanthropically each year to maintain its non-profit status.

SASB: The Sustainability Accounting Standards Board

These standards are intended as a complement to financial accounting standards, such that they can be evaluated side by side to provide a complete view of corporate performance and prospects.

SDG: Sustainable Development Goals

These 17 international development goals were established by the United Nations following the expiration of the MDG in 2015.

SGB: Small and Growing Business

A commercially viable business that has significant potential for expansion and social impact in the communities where it operates.

SME: Small and Medium Enterprise

Generally, a company characterized by the number of its employees or annual sales or assets. A small enterprise meets two of the these three criteria: minimum 50 employees, under $3 million in each assets and sales. A medium enterprise meets two of the following three criteria: up to 300 employees, total assets and total sales of up to $15 million.

SRI: Socially Responsible Investing

SRI primarily employs negative screening meaning that investors don’t invest in companies whose profit-generating activities produce negative social or environmental outcomes.

USSIF: United States Social Investment Forum

This forum leads the talks in advancing sustainable, responsible, and impact investing across all asset classes.

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