Explore The Five Dimensions Of Impact

Impact management norms

Thousands of practitioners have come together to agree on a shared understanding of impact.

Since 2016, the IMP has convened a Practitioner Community of over 2,000 enterprises and investors to build global consensus on how we talk about, measure and manage our ESG risks and positive impacts.

This consensus (or “norms”) provide a common logic to help enterprises and investors understand their impacts on people and the planet, so that they can reduce the negative and increase the positive. 

What is impact?

Impact is a change in an outcome caused by an organisation. An impact can be positive or negative, intended or unintended.

Impact is a change in an outcome caused by an organisation. An impact can be positive or negative, intended or unintended.

Five dimensions of impact

Everything we do has impacts on people and the planet. To understand any impact, we need to understand five dimensions of performance.

After hundreds of in-person and virtual conversations across the IMP’s Practitioner Community of over 2,000 organisations, the IMP reached consensus that impact can be measured across five dimensions:

  • What tells us what outcomes the enterprise is contributing to, whether they’re positive or negative, and how important the outcomes are to stakeholders.
  • Who tells us which stakeholders are experiencing the outcome and how underserved they were prior to the enterprise’s effect.
  • How Much tells us how many stakeholders experienced the outcome, what degree of change they experienced, and how long they experienced the outcome for.
  • Contribution tells us whether an enterprise’s and/or investor’s efforts resulted in outcomes that were likely better than what would have occurred otherwise.
  • Risk tells us the likelihood that impact will be different than expected.

In the next section, we introduce the impact data categories that operationalise these dimensions.

The IMP five dimensions of impact

Relevant Resources

Data categories

To understand performance on each dimension, we need to measure and report specific types of data.

To make impact management a reality, the IMP has developed a set of categories that provide information across the five dimensions. Produced by four working groups of 40+ organisations, these impact categories enable enterprises and investors to set goals and assess performance. 

The impact data categories have not been designed to replace existing frameworks and standards. In fact, many enterprises and investors already collect data across the categories, but may have a different name for them. Instead, we believe the impact data categories are building blocks – if you are starting from scratch, you may want to build your impact management framework on top of them; if you already have an impact structure, then you may want to use the categories as a checklist to ensure that you are not missing any of the essential pieces for managing impact.

Click on any of the dimensions of impact to learn more about the categories – Why are they important for setting goals and assessing performance? How can you collect relevant data to populate them?

The IMP 15 data categories

Relevant resources

How enterprises can manage their impact

Any enterprise directly affecting people or the planet – whether a large multinational, a small business or a non-profit – can manage its impact.

Click here to find out how enterprises can measure and compare impact performance data – and use this data to set goals and communicate performance. 

How investors can manage their impact

Managing the impact of an investment, or portfolio of investments, means taking into account the positive and negative impacts of the underlying enterprises/assets, as well as the investor’s own contribution.

Click here to understand what data is needed to understand the impact of an investment, and how investors can set impact goals and communicate the overall impact of a portfolio.