Everyone Has A Stake In The Impact Movement.
We Share Data To Help Tell Its Story.

The Impact Database (ImpactDB) is a data publishing initiative.

It’s a not-for-profit intended to serve the public good by curating, analysing, and sharing data and datasets of interest to the impact investment community.

We believe that every citizen of this planet has a stake in seeing impact investing succeed. Which is why we think that communicating data about impact’s achievements is of public importance.

The website was created in April 2024 by Daniel Rosehill who works as the communications manager for Sir Ronald Cohen. The website is an independent undertaking.

If this is your first time hearing the word ‘impact’, we’re delighted to provide an introduction to this interesting field which sits at the intersection of finance and sustainability.

Impact investing is about trying to make the financial system work for everyone — innovators, financiers, society, and the planet

Some people call this endpoint “impact economies” though (as in every movement) there isn’t a common terminology for everything (yet).

But there’s broad consensus around the idea that our current way of doing business, and valuing impacts, is broken. And that for the sake of our society and planet, if we want to change things, we need to start taking radically different approaches.

What Does Impact Investing Do To Change Things?

These are some of the many approaches that impact investing has proposed to improve the distribution of wealth, reduce the harm caused by companies, and encourage the growth of companies which are both financially prosperous and are ‘net positive’ contributors to society and the planet:

Impact suggests ways to improve the financial system

This includes things like: encouraging the growth of novel forms of debt that incentivize borrowers to meet sustainability targets; finding ways for private investors to ally with governments in impact investments; and many more approaches.

Impact encourages private investors and governments to come together to do good

We’re used to thinking of governments and non-profits as the people that (try to) fix problems in our society and private investors as those seeking to make money for themselves.

But what if their interests weren’t necessarily diametrically opposed?

Social finance suggests mechanisms that can bring private investors and governments together to achieve good.

Variations that have been introduced include social impact bonds, development impact bonds, and multiple more niche variants.

Impact proposes novel ways of measuring companies’ (real) value

Normative accounting methodologies are fundamentally broken.

Today, an airline can generate $100M of revenue, cause the equivalent of $150M of environmental damage, and our hope of capturing this information equitably is through poorly regulated and often self-serving ESG disclosures.

Global equities are worth more than $100TN, dwarfing the combined GDP of many nations. If value of publicly traded companies could be reckoned more fairly the repercussions – as well as the incentives created for companies to improve their sustainability performance – would both be enormous.

Impact-weighted accounting proposes methodologies for integrating companies’ far-reaching ‘impacts’ into accounting. Standout projects in that area are presented on this website.

How Can I Use The Impact Database?

Make use of this website however you think you might derive value from it. It exists to be a public resource. Although inspired by the work of some figures in the world of impact investing, it has no platform of its own.

But here are some guidelines for common visitor groups:

I’m a journalist

I’m a data scientist/researcher

I publish data about impact investing

I’m just interested in impact!

Discovering Trends And Furthering Analysis Of Impact Data

The Education Outcomes Fund (EOF) is an example of an outcomes fund working throughout Africa to improve educational attainment.

Data visualisation can help to underscore trends that are easy to miss when looking at columns of numbers — or to show relationships between variables that aren’t apparent at first glance.

And with $4TN standing between where we are now and where we need to be to close the SDG funding gap, impact investing is all about looking at the big picture.

To get your data visualization mojo in train, here’s an example dataset showing product impact (green bar charts) plotted against total monetised product impact (the red lines).

It was derived from the Impact Weighted Accounts Initiative’s product impact dataset.

Some Tips For Viewing The Data Visualisations Here:

Here are some general pointers for how to derive maximum value from this website. Click to expand the details.

Hover over a datapoint to call up information for a particular company.

📱 For the best browsing experience, access this website from a non-mobile device, like a laptop computer.

Example Visualisations – Outcomes-Based Financing

Visualisation of global outcomes funds deployment, March 2024.

Source: INDIGO project, Oxford University.

If you’re interested in exploring this topic further, you might find this post of interest:

Impact bonds and outcomes funds – plotting issuance volume over time.

Source: Brookings Institution, Outcomes-Based Financing.

These datapoints were kindly provided by Brookings Institution and show that although the cumulative volume of outcomes-based finance instruments has grown over time, year-on-year issuance volumes have been levelling off since 2018.

Many are optimistic that 2024 will see a big liftoff in global deployment volumes.

Example Visualisation – Impact-Weighted Accounting

We touched upon impact-weighted accounting above.

How should this data be interpreted?

Here’s what’s above:

  • Product impact accounting has proposed “monetising” the health impacts of companies on their consumers (among other factors). It’s an interesting idea which means finding ways to capture the impacts that products have on their consumers’ health and putting a dollar value on it.
  • Another way impact-weighted accounting has sought to quantify product impact is through gauging its affordability. Lifesaving medicines can’t save lives, after all, if those who need them can’t afford them. But how can we capture that information in financial accounts?

If we look at a narrower slice of the data — for example by filtering on the CPG sector — we can see something interesting.

In IWAI’s analysis, only one company (General Mills) had both positive EBITDA and positive net “product impact.”

…. And Here’s Something To Think About

For every other company in the CPG sector, if the (negative) effects of their products were brought into financial accounts, it would wipe out their profitability.

Conventional accounting methodologies are leaving an awful lot of impacts go unaccounted for.

The process of formulating impact-weighting accounting methodologies is ongoing, evolving, and subject to ongoing change.

Groups like the International Foundation for Valuing Impacts are engaging in wide consultative processes to understand what ideas are out there and to try propose some mutually-agreeable standards.

If you’re interested in the idea, check out their site and engage with their process.

Next Steps: Try Working With The Data Yourself!

Now it’s time to finally get off the couch and start doing something. This site exists to nurture data-curiosity and we’re happy to have you along on the journey.

If you like working in SQL, there’s a data sandbox pre-loaded with the datasets mentioned on this frontend that you can query directly.

Or if you prefer working with data by dragging-and-dropping, you can do that too.

Or you can just read the blog posts (we’re working on recruiting authors from our community of data buddies. It will just take a while to get things set up).

And finally — here’s the data referenced above in CSV if you’d like to go through it offline.

Caveat Data Viewer: ImpactDB Is Made Available On A ‘Best Effort’ Basis

Rather than write legalese, we’d rather give a natural language definition of the scope and limitations of this undertaking:

The Impact Database was never intended to be a definitive collection of the world’s impact-related data (this is a task that’s not only monumental but also probably impossible).

Rather, it is intended to provoke curiosity ? and analysis ? among small selections of data that has been provided, kindly, by those who originally collected it.

We will try to keep the data here updated. But committing to doing so forever and to the kind of degree you might expect from a professional data provider is way beyond what’s possible or realistic. So buyer beware! Or rather: it’s a good idea to validate this data externally.

If you want more details about the project, there’s an about’ page.

To get in touch, please use this form.

(Text, unless otherwise stated, authored by Daniel Rosehill )

Note: This website is in active development and our data sandbox is currently invite-only. Please bear with us while we work on our presentation, fix typos, and chat with changemakers!

Footnotes Referenced Above

The Impact Database is licensed under CC BY 4.0
(Unrestricted use, but please attribute)