6.10.01 - Social return on investment: insights and lessons for forest governance


William Nikolakis, Canada


Renata Veiga, Brazil

About Unit

A Social Return on Investment (SRoI) measures the social outcomes generated from an investment to produce these specified outcomes. A SRoI can, for example, quantify the social outcomes from an investment in a forest restoration program, like participant health and wellbeing outcomes, or enhanced livelihoods. A SRoI ratio, is a measure to compare the “total adjusted values of the outcomes experienced by stakeholders to the investment made” (SVA Consulting, 2016: p. 20). The SRoI ratio evaluates and guides the allocation of resources to certain activities, to maximize public benefits. SRoI are increasingly being used to support the ‘business case’ for government investments into forest conservation, and are creating opportunities for Indigenous peoples to steward and restore intact forest landscapes and degraded landscapes given the broader lens SRoI creates in assessing outcomes from these investments (SVA Consulting, 2016).

While SRoI are increasingly being used by governments, the value of social outcomes are typically only estimates, and the methodologies to quantify these outcomes are being developed to better determine the quantitative value of these outcomes. However, the social outcomes are often so unique that quantifying these are difficult to quantify, and others pose ethical dilemmas – for example, putting an economic value on the spiritual and cultural values generated for Indigenous and local peoples from forest investments is problematic and likely misleading.

While SRoI is a useful tool to determine the non-market benefits derived from public and private investments into forests, there are acknowledged limitations on what outcomes are measured, how data is generated and interpreted, and what methods are most appropriate to determine values. This Working Group will evaluate what is measured and the methods for SRoI, and what stakeholders think about these, to develop a SRoI framework for forests.