Photos by Anne Colliard & SDG Lab.
As part of Building Bridges Week 2021 from 29 November to 2 December 2021, the SDG Lab and IISD hosted two data workshops that addressed the challenges of measuring the social impact of investments. The workshops followed a panel discussion in advance of Building Bridges to ‘warm-up’ the topic by “Shining a light on the Social Dimension of Sustainable Finance”.
The data workshops brought together actors from the finance sector, including asset managers, impact investors, foundations, with actors from the UN, international organizations, and NGOs. The main objective was to facilitate an understanding among the diverse actors on what social sustainability is and how we can go about measuring it.
Rather than attempting to capture the breath of the social dimension, participants tackled the topic by diving into subthemes. These were: Decent work (including a focus on vulnerable workers); diversity and inclusion (with a focus on gender and persons with disabilities); enabling inclusive and sustainable communities; respecting human rights and governance issues, and lastly, taking a holistic approach to measuring the ‘S’. The breakout discussions were moderated by subject experts from the OECD, ILO, PeaceNexus Foundation, IISD, and two independent experts.
Highlights from the group discussions
Many common points were raised across the different thematic groups. These were:
- The importance of using disaggregated data to leave no-one behind,
- Taking into account local contexts by using contextual data,
- Recognizing the value of qualitative data
- Collaborating with sectors that have already developed systems for collecting and using data for the social dimension.
The discussions confirmed that measuring the results of investments with respect to the social dimension is considered challenging by most actors. Existing measurement frameworks and indicators appear to be inadequate and, while applicable in some contexts, they are not universal. Aggregated data on social impact leave individuals and groups behind and many social issues face difficulties in terms of definitions and standardization.
However, it was also pointed out that part of addressing this challenge is recognizing and learning to make use of the data already available to us. There was also a call to recognize qualitative data as “hard” data and use alternative data sources such as self-reported and voluntary data.
More information available in the PDF.