BlueMark’s framework is designed to evaluate the completeness and reliability of impact reporting prepared by fund managers for their investors.
BlueMark, a leading provider of independent impact verification and intelligence for the impact and sustainable investing market, today published a framework for evaluating the completeness and reliability of fund managers’ impact reports. The framework is designed to help impact fund managers improve how they disclose their impact results to their investors and to make it easier for investors to assess the quality of the impact reports they receive. The framework, which also provides the basis for BlueMark’s approach to verifying impact reports, is available for download at www.bluemarktideline.com/raising-the-bar-2.
BlueMark’s reporting verification methodology was developed after more than 18 months of research, which included 19 verifications of client impact reports, analyses of 30+ other impact reports and interviews with more than 50 impact investing experts. The most recent phase of the research involved a pilot project with Impact Frontiers, a market-building collaborative for impact investors, and seven of its member-impact fund managers, each of whom paid to have their impact reports verified by BlueMark using the new framework. These seven firms – which work across diverse sectors, geographies, and asset classes – included Anthos Fund & Asset Management, Big Society Capital, Impact Engine, Rally Assets, Japan Social Innovation and Investment Foundation (SIIF), and TELUS.
“Impact reporting is an important part of how impact investors are held accountable for their impact claims,” said Christina Leijonhufvud, CEO of BlueMark. “With this new framework for evaluating impact reports, our goal is to improve transparency and credibility by driving stronger alignment around how we as a field define quality impact reporting, including the specific steps impact investors can take to level up their reports.”
“The impact fund managers we collaborate with have a shared desire for a clear and transparent approach to impact reporting that allows for a more holistic understanding of impact performance,” said Mike McCreless, Executive Director of Impact Frontiers. “BlueMark’s framework helps fill this critical gap in the impact investing market by clarifying the types of information that impact reports should include.”
BlueMark’s reporting verification framework
BlueMark’s research and stakeholder consultation on best practices in impact reporting revealed a great deal of agreement among market actors as to what constitutes quality and decision-useful reporting. Based on these insights, BlueMark designed a framework for verifying impact reporting that is anchored around two key pillars — Completeness and Reliability.
Under the Completeness pillar, BlueMark assesses the scope and relevance of reported information related to an investor’s impact strategy and results at both the portfolio- and investment-level.
Under the Reliability pillar, BlueMark assesses the clarity and quality of impact data presented in the report, including underlying data management practices and systems.
As part of the verification methodology, BlueMark assigns ratings to these criteria to help impact investors understand where they excel in their reporting and where they still have room for improvement. These ratings will be used to create industry benchmarks similar to the BlueMark Practice Benchmark, which was introduced in BlueMark’s “Making the Mark” research series on trends and best practices in impact management.
BlueMark’s methodology focuses on information that is essential for external stakeholders–in particular investors in impact funds–to gauge whether those funds are reporting on the right things and in the right way. It stops short of defining what “good” or “bad” impact performance looks like, which remains a challenge across the impact investing industry due to the limited availability of data on performance measures that would allow for appropriate comparisons across different types of impact funds and strategies.
To date, BlueMark has completed 100+ impact verifications for impact investors managing a combined $192 billion in impact AUM. Approximately 80% of these have been verifications of an investor’s impact management (IM) practices, while the remaining 20% have been impact reporting verifications. BlueMark plans to conduct additional research on the relationship between robust IM practice and quality impact reporting to help advance best practices across the field.
BlueMark is the leading provider of independent impact verification and intelligence for the impact and sustainable investing market. As a certified B Corp, BlueMark’s mission is to “strengthen trust in impact investing.” BlueMark’s verification methodologies draw on a range of industry standards, frameworks and regulations, including the Impact Management Project (IMP), the Operating Principles for Impact Management (Impact Principles), the Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI), SDG Impact, and the Sustainable Finance Disclosure Regulation (SFDR). Learn more about BlueMark and impact verification at www.bluemarktideline.com.