GIIRS: A Bridge at the Intersection of Meaning and Money


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“A bridge is about to open up in the market at the intersection of money and meaning that will make things easier and safer for people who want to make their investments consistent with their values,” according to Kevin Jones, lead convener of the upcoming Social Capital Markets (SOCAP09) conference in San Francisco.

The bridge he’s referring to is GIIRS (for Global Impact Investing Rating System), a new investor system built through the collaboration of leading foundations, social investment funds, rating agencies and consultants. The demand for solid social investment opportunities is growing rapidly among high net worth investors, family offices and institutional wealth managers. GIIRS is expected to address this pent-up demand by letting these new style investors compare and measure the kind of social and environmental impact they can expect from their investments and donations.

The GIIRS rating system will be explained in more detail on September 2 at the SOCAP09 conference. The system is ready and has been in trials for a while. In fact, some of these large institutional investments could be announced at SOCAP09.

As the social capital investment market matures, it makes sense that tools for evaluating the impact as well as the risks of potential investments would also evolve.  These types of tools have long been available to traditional profit-driven investors. Now, thanks to GIIRS, the social investor has a platform for evaluating the social and environmental returns of their investments, in addition to the financial bottom line.

One of the key elements of GIIRS is IRIS (Impact Investment Reporting Standards), which is a taxonomy and translation tool that manages to create an agreement on terms and definitions in this emerging market of social investing.

GIIRS was developed by leading foundations, social investment funds, accountancies, ratings agencies and consultancies, which, led by Rockefeller Foundation, include Kellogg Foundation, Acumen Fund, Root Capital, B Lab, JP Morgan Chase Foundation, Monitor Institute, Deloitte and Imprint, among others.  This collaboration has resulted in the formation of GIIN (the Global Impact Investing Network), a select global group of investors and intermediaries who put capital to work at scale to generate social and environmental value in addition to financial return.

If you’d like to learn more about GIIRS and many other new approaches to building the bridge between meaning and money, make sure to register for the SOCAP09 conference, coming September 1-3 (plus an unconference on September 4) to San Francisco’s Fort Mason.  A 30% discount on registration is available until August 15 using the Triple Pundit registration code TP30.

Jim Witkin is a writer and researcher based in Silicon Valley focused on business, technology and the environment. His work has been featured in the New York Times and Guardian newspapers on topics that include: sustainable business practices, clean tech, the environment and next generation transportation technologies. He holds an MBA in Sustainable Management from the Presidio Graduate School. Contact him at

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