What is IRIS

The Impact Reporting and Investment Standards (IRIS) provide a common reporting language to describe social and environmental performance and ensure uniform measurement and articulation of impact across companies. The IRIS taxonomy defines terms to enable consistent reporting and allows benchmarking of data across companies by serving as a repository for aggregated IRIS-compliant data. The Global Impact Investing Network, B Lab, Acumen Fund, and the Rockefeller Foundation helped launch IRIS, with support from Hitachi, Deloitte and PricewaterhouseCoopers, in early 2008.

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How can I get involved with the standards development

Our Standards Advisory Council is comprised of industry leaders and experts that we recruit by invitation. We strive to continually improve the Assessment, and that requires input from many different sources. We encourage everyone who takes the Assessment to submit feedback. Users can leave feedback directly in the B Impact Assessment platform using the Leave Feedback button next to each question or by reaching out directly to our Standards Management team (Ana C. Gonzalez at acgonzalez@bcorporation.net) with thoughts and questions.

See this document for guidance on submitting feedback directly to the Standards Management Team: V6 Public Feedback Guidelines. We take this feedback seriously and incorporate it into our standards development process.

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How can I get involved in social enterprise

Everyone’s path in social enterprise is different. If you are interested in getting involved in the B Corp movement, please visit here. We also encourage you to check out our partners such as Social Venture Network, ANDE and 1% for the Planet, to learn more about opportunities in social enterprise. We also regularly post job opportunities at B Corps here.

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Why evaluate the impact of the whole company

History repeatedly teaches the business world that there are often unintended, negative consequences of focusing on a single objective. This principle is just as relevant amongst social enterprises. It is not uncommon to observe businesses that bank to the poor but pay below market wages to their employees or install solar panels that were made using toxic metals; often the positive impact create on one constituent comes at the expense of another.

We believe that the power of private enterprise is not only capable but best suited out of all forces in society to achieve multiple social and environmental objectives. As a result, the B Impact Assessment is designed to simply show businesses what is possible across all dimensions of sustainability, without prescribing specific practices.   Just as society encourages students to study both the sciences and the humanities, we hope to encourage a business society that has a more holistic set of objectives. Some argue that striving for multiple social objectives dilutes the effect of the individual goals due to time or resource constraints. We do not doubt that there is often a tradeoff between two financial or social objectives. But this also does not mean that business owners are incapable of at least considering these tradeoffs by way of assessing the company’s performance against these parameters.

We believe that widening the lens on impact measurement will only help the company achieve its long term objectives instead of harm.

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What is an Impact Business Model

The Impact Business Models (IBM) section evaluates the big picture issues that the company is aiming to solve through its products or operations (ie. poverty alleviation, creating a fair trade supply chain).

This section is a collection of best practices that are extremely rare but are a defining element of a social enterprise. Small elements of IBM type practices are likely mentioned in the other sections, but the IBM section allows the Assessment to isolate these big picture goals and evaluate them at a much higher degree of detail. View a list and description of the Impact Business Models currently available in the Assessment here.

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The Assessment seems to require lots of formal policies. How does it capture true impact

The Assessment in general does its best to reward social and environmental outcomes (versus intention) first. Although it may ask a few questions related to formal policies, these questions are weighted far less than questions the company is practicing. For example, the questions related to how many hours the company’s employees volunteered in the last year will be worth far more than question of whether the company has a formal Community Service Policy.

  • Policies - 5%
  • Practices -  24%
  • Outputs and Outcomes - 71%

Other business owners have learned that formalizing their practices allows them to sustain those activities over a longer period of time with more engagement from their employees, and therefore this formalization is rewarded in the Assessment.

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How often is the Assessment revised

A new version of B Impact Assessment is released approximately every three years, with the next version scheduled for release in January of 2019. Prior to Version 5, launched in January 2016, the BIA was updated every 2 years:

  • Version 5 Release: January 2016
  • Version 4 Release: January 2014
  • Version 3 Release: September 2011
  • Version 2 Release: January 2010
  • Version 1 Release: October 2007

Prior to the release of each new version of the Assessment, B Lab conducts both a private and public beta period that allows all stakeholders to provide feedback to the standards before they are published. Find more information about the scope and timeline of V6 here. All are welcome and encouraged to provide feedback on how the B Impact Assessment can be improved. Users can leave feedback directly in the B Impact Assessment platform using the Leave Feedback button next to each question. See this document for guidance on submitting feedback directly to the Standards Management Team: V6 Public Feedback Guidelines. If you are interested in learning about updates and opportunities to provide feedback as drafts are made available for testing and public comment, please subscribe to our Version 6 distribution list.

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My B Impact Score only increased by a few points, but our impact has increased dramatically. What happened

The Assessment is far from being perfect, and it is possible that a significant change in the company is not perfectly correlated with the number of points earned. We would love your help on reweighting items that you feel should be worth more.

However, this occurs most often when one practice is achieved but other answers have changed, thus neutralizing the positive score change.

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My company is a start up. How will that affect my score

The Assessment is a measurement of current and recent past performance on different dimensions of impact. The Assessment is not aimed at rewarding future intentions (e.g. the company plans to give away 5% of its profits to charity), as these items would be difficult to verify.

As a result, many startups find the Assessment is useful as a learning tool to help shape policies of flag practices to incorporate into their company in the future. We encourage companies to begin assessing their impact from day one, and find that those companies that do experience significant score improvements over time.

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What is the highest score achieved on the Assessment

The highest scores achieved that are also verified by B Lab typically vary from year to year but are generally between 160-170 points. To see the companies that achieved the highest scores, view the Best For the World lists.

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