“Impact investments can be made in both emerging and developed markets, and target a range of returns from below-market to above-market rates, depending upon the circumstances.” Impact investing tends to have roots in either social issues or environmental issues, and has been contrasted with microfinance.Impact investors actively seek to place capital in businesses, nonprofits, and funds that can harness the positive power of enterprise. Impact investing occurs across asset classes; for example, private equity/venture capital, debt, and fixed income.

Impact investors are primarily distinguished by their intention to address social and environmental challenges through their deployment of capital. For example, criteria to evaluate the positive social and/or environmental outcomes of investments are an integrated component of the investment process. In contrast, practitioners of socially responsible investing also include negative (avoidance) criteria as part of their investment decisions.