The IRI was founded in 2004 under the guidance of Founding Director Steve Lydenberg, then Chief Investment Officer of Domini Social Investments. Active in social investment research since 1975, Steve had previously worked with the Council on Economic Priorities, Franklin Research and Development Corporation (now known as Trillium Asset Management), and co-founded KLD Research & Analytics, Inc.

At the time of its founding, the IRI’s primary purpose was to hold events to spur thinking and action on responsible investment. Participants at the first IRI meeting, held in November 2003, debated the best ways for responsible investors to recognize and support mergers and acquisitions that are likely create long-term value.   

In 2005, David Wood joined the IRI as Executive Director and the IRI moved from organizing occasional meetings to publication of research on a range of topics, including investor use of non-financial information, funding mechanisms for small and medium enterprises (SMEs), responsible investment across asset classes, and corporate social reporting.  As part of its work, the IRI co-founded, with Gary Pivo of the University of Arizona, the Responsible Property Investing (RPI) Center to conduct intensive research and network building in the emerging field of green and responsible real estate.

In 2008, the IRI started the More for Mission Campaign Resource Center, a network for foundation endowments seeking opportunities to align their financial investments with their institutional mission. More for Mission became the Mission Investors Exchange in 2012.

In 2010, the IRI and InSight at Pacific Community Ventures developed the Global Impact Investing Policy Collaborative (IIPC), which aimed to explore the intersection of public policy and impact investing and develop a network of researchers and public policymakers interested in the field. For more information about the IRI’s work on public policy and impact investing, visit the IRI’s Public Policy page.

Also in 2010, the IRI and Jean Rogers, a principal at the consulting firm Arup, set out to develop and test a methodology for determining material issues factors and their associated key performance indicators (KPIs) for companies by industry sector. They identified a set of KPIs for the social and environmental impacts of US corporations and applied them to six industries; the IRI team published their findings in "From Transparency to Performance: Industry-Based Sustainability Reporting on Key Issues". In response to the positive reception of the study, and demand for a full set of industry indicators, the Sustainability Accounting Standards Board (SASB) was incorporated in 2011.  SASB develops and disseminates sustainability accounting standards that help public corporations disclose material information to investors.

The Trustee Leadership Forum for Retirement Security was created in 2011 to work with trustees of public pension funds on responsible investment. Through an annual national convening, a webinar series, and the development of online resource, the TLF aims to support trustees as they grapple with the challenges of overseeing their funds in the best interests of their beneficiaries.

Today, the IRI’s research agenda examines the social purpose of finance from the supply of capital to investment opportunities, paying particular attention to the ecosystem of policy and practice that encourages and constrains the development of the field. For more information on our current projects and recent publications, see Our Work.