Posted by Robbie on Thursday, October 07, 2010.

SoCap Recap

Ian and I just got back from SOCAP10, where Brighter Planet was the in-kind carbon offset sponsor.

SOCAP10 brings together some of the major thought leaders in the field of “social capital markets.” These are markets such as microfinance and clean technology which use the power and efficiency of market systems to solve pressing social and environmental issues.

My favorite panel was one in the Metrics/Systems thinking track that focused on creating a universal language and set of metrics to assess social and environmental impact. It asked basic questions such as “What do we mean when we say ‘green job’?” and “How do we compare one company’s social and environmental performance to another’s in a way that is similar to comparing investment ratings?” In more mature fields we take commonality of language and metrics for granted, but in emerging industries this work is elemental and essential.

I’m happy to report that two organizations are providing the framework for communicating and measuring social and environmental performance. The Global Impact Investing Network has produced IRIS (Impact Reporting & Investment Standards), a dictionary for terms describing the social and environmental performance of an organization, while B Lab’s GIIRS (Global Impact Investing Rating Systems) assesses the social and environmental impact of companies and funds using a common ratings system analogous to credit risk ratings.

This is particularly interesting and valuable to Brighter Planet because carbon is a key environmental metric that is all too often under-reported or ignored. We believe people’s understanding improves when carbon emissions are placed in context alongside other metrics, both traditional and emerging. Efforts such as IRIS and GIIRS help to shed light on what have traditionally been shadow metrics by bringing order and structure to the process.

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