top of page

Understanding Social Return on Investment (SROI)

Updated: Jan 13

The SROI Guide provides an understanding of Social Return on Investment, a method for measuring the non-financial value of social, environmental, and economic outcomes.

It emphasizes principles such as involving stakeholders, understanding changes, valuing outcomes, avoiding over-claiming, transparency, verification of results, and considering materiality.

The guide outlines steps including defining scope, mapping outcomes, evidencing and valuing outcomes, establishing impact, calculating SROI, and reporting results. It highlights the benefits of SROI in strategic planning, stakeholder engagement, and improved decision-making.

 a visual representation of the acronym "SROI," which stands for Social Return on Investment. The letters S, R, O, and I are arranged like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle being put together, symbolizing how the different aspects of SROI fit together to complete the concept. This kind of imagery is often used to convey the idea that SROI is a holistic approach, integrating various elements of social, environmental, and economic return into one comprehensive framework.

What is Social Return on Investment (SROI)?

Social Return on Investment (SROI) is a framework for measuring and accounting for the value of the social, economic, and environmental outcomes created by an activity or an organization. It goes beyond traditional financial return on investment to include the social and environmental value that stakeholders experience as a result of an activity.

SROI aims to capture this extra-financial value by translating it into a monetary figure, allowing for a more comprehensive understanding of the full impact of a project or organization.

This approach helps in understanding and quantifying the broader impacts of investments and decisions, often highlighting value that is not captured through standard financial accounting.

Key Components

  • Value Creation: SROI goes beyond mere financial gains, focusing on the broader value created for stakeholders, encompassing societal and environmental benefits.

  • Monetary Representation: This involves the challenge of quantifying social and environmental outcomes in monetary terms, a complex yet critical component of SROI.

  • Decision-Making: The framework aids in informed decision-making by providing a comprehensive dataset on impacts, helping organizations align their strategies with their social and environmental goals.

The Principles of SROI

SROI is grounded in seven key principles, ensuring its effectiveness and integrity:

  • Involve Stakeholders: This principle emphasizes active engagement with those affected by the activities. It's about understanding their perspectives and ensuring their voices are heard in the assessment process.

  • Understand Changes: Focuses on identifying and documenting the changes that result from the activities. This involves recognizing both intended and unintended consequences.

  • Value What Matters: It's about assigning monetary values to significant outcomes, ensuring that what is valued in the analysis reflects what is important to stakeholders.

  • Avoid Over-Claiming: This principle advocates for claiming only those changes to which the activity has directly contributed, avoiding exaggeration of impact.

  • Be Transparent: Transparency throughout the SROI process is crucial. This means openly sharing methods, assumptions, and findings.

  • Verify Results: Ensures the accuracy and reliability of the analysis, advocating for validation of results through evidence and appropriate methodologies.

  • Materiality: Involves including information that significantly affects decisions, ensuring that the analysis reflects what is truly important.

The 6 Stages in SROI Analysis

1. Establishing Scope & Identifying Stakeholders

This involves defining the boundaries of the analysis and engaging with stakeholders who are affected by or can affect the outcomes. This stage ensures a comprehensive understanding of the impact and its relevance to different groups.

2. Mapping Outcomes

In this stage, the expected outcomes of the activity are identified and documented. This involves predicting the changes that the activity aims to create and mapping them in a structured manner.

3. Evidencing & Valuing Outcomes

This critical phase involves collecting data to prove the outcomes and then assigning monetary values to them. The process requires a careful approach to ensure that the valuation is accurate and reflects the real value of the outcomes.

4. Establishing Impact

This stage focuses on isolating the changes that are directly attributable to the activity, separating them from those that would have happened anyway. It's about identifying the actual impact of the activity.

5. Calculating the SROI

Here, the total social return is computed by calculating the net value of the impact and dividing it by the investment. This ratio helps in understanding the efficiency of the investment in terms of social value.

6. Reporting & Using the Results

The final stage involves communicating the findings and insights gained from the SROI analysis. This not only includes reporting the results but also using them to inform future strategies and improvements.

Benefits of SROI

  • Strategic Insights: SROI provides clarity on the effectiveness of resource utilization. It helps organizations understand how well they are using their investments to generate social value, allowing them to align their strategies more closely with their objectives.

  • Stakeholder Engagement: It enhances understanding and communication with stakeholders. By involving stakeholders in the SROI process, organizations can build stronger relationships and foster trust, ensuring that their activities are aligned with stakeholder needs and expectations.

  • Improved Decision-Making: SROI offers a comprehensive view that aids in better decision-making. By quantifying social, environmental, and economic impacts, it provides a clearer picture of the outcomes, helping leaders make more informed, balanced decisions.

Embracing the Future: The Transformative Power of SROI

SROI is a transformative approach for organizations to measure and communicate their social, environmental, and economic impacts. By adopting this framework, entities can not only understand their true impact but also use this knowledge to drive improvements and demonstrate their value to stakeholders and investors.


As we conclude our exploration of Social Return on Investment, we invite you to take the next step in your journey toward sustainable and responsible business practices.

Join our ESG community, a platform dedicated to fostering knowledge, sharing insights, and driving action in the realms of environmental, social, and governance issues.

Be part of a network that is shaping the future of business, creating impact, and making a difference. Together, we can build a more sustainable, equitable, and prosperous world.


Subscribe to our newsletter  Don’t miss out!

Thanks for subscribing!

a black board with letters community

Building Bridges, Not Walls, for Global Unity

Explore ESGinie


Your AI Sustainability Assistant

bottom of page