Investment industry heavyweights CFA Institute, GSIA and PRI announce harmonized definitions for responsible investment approaches

James Alexander
James Alexander 1st November 2023

New York City – 1 November 2023 CFA Institute, the Global Sustainable Investment Alliance (GSIA), and Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI) have issued a new resource that aims to bring greater understanding and consistency to terminology used in responsible investment, specifically:

  • Screening
  • ESG integration
  • Thematic investing
  • Stewardship
  • Impact investing

For each term, CFA Institute, GSIA, and PRI have outlined a definition, detailed explanation, a list of definitions that served as the primary inputs, and guidance for using the terms in practice. The paper is intended for investors, regulators, policymakers, and other market participants.

The collaboration was inspired by calls from regulators for voluntary standard setters to develop common terms and definitions to ensure consistency throughout the global asset management and wealth management industries.

Promoting the consistent and precise use of terminology contributes to efforts to address greenwashing.

The work to harmonize terminology also serves to deepen understanding of the nuances of responsible investment approaches. It counters confusion about what different responsible investment strategies seek to achieve by clearly differentiating the objectives of approaches, such as ESG integration and impact investing.

The harmonized terminology contained in the joint resource responds to shifts that have taken place in the responsible investment landscape. Prior versions of the definitions were, in some cases, specific to investments in listed companies. These updated definitions reflect the reality that responsible investment approaches can be applied to a wide range of investment styles and asset classes, spanning both public and private markets.

The three organizations emphasize that this resource clarifies and harmonizes existing terms and definitions and does not create new terms or meanings.

Marg Franklin, President and CEO at CFA Institute, comments:

“Technical terminology is an important part of professional practice.  New terms are always emerging alongside new ideas, and definitions evolve over time.  It’s important to standardize terms and definitions as practices mature so that professionals can communicate efficiently and effectively with each other as well as with clients, regulators, and other market participants. We believe this work will serve as a valuable resource for CFA charterholders, members, and candidates.”

 Simon O’Connor, Former Chair of the GSIA, comments:

“For many years, our organizations have been working to define and clarify the language of responsible investment.  This foundation of experience and expertise enabled us to come together with a common purpose to clarify and harmonize these definitions on a global scale. We now encourage the investment industry and regulators to adopt these definitions to create greater consistency.” 

David Atkin, CEO at PRI, comments:

“Responsible investment has grown significantly, and so have the expectations for clear and transparent communication. Investors need language that enables them to communicate their responsible investment practices accurately, succinctly, and consistently. By unifying around common definitions, we support our signatories and members to communicate with confidence.”

The paper is available to read on each of the respective organization’s websites:

CFA Institute: here

GSIA: click here

PRI: click here

Download the paper here


The terms agreed upon by CFA Institute, GSIA, and PRI are listed below. We would advise that these definitions are used within the context of the full report, which lists more information on each term, including a detailed explanation, a list of definitions that served as the primary inputs, and guidance for using the terms in practice.

  • Screening (detailed definition on page 3): the application of rules based on defined criteria that determine whether an investment is permissible.
  • ESG integration (page 8): ongoing consideration of ESG factors within an investment analysis and decision-making process with the aim to improve risk-adjusted returns.
  • Thematic investing (page 12): selecting assets to access specified trends.
  • Stewardship (page 14): The use of investor rights and influence to protect and enhance overall long-term value for clients and beneficiaries, including the common economic, social and environmental assets on which their interests depend.
  • Impact investing (page 19): investing with the intention to generate a positive, measurable social and/or environmental impact alongside a financial return. This definition of impact investing is based on the Global Impact Investing Network definition of impact investments, which it defines as “investments made with the intention to generate positive, measurable social and environmental impact alongside a financial return”.

About CFA Institute

CFA Institute is the global association of investment professionals that sets the standard for professional excellence and credentials. The organization is a champion of ethical behavior in investment markets and a respected source of knowledge in the global financial community. Our aim is to create an environment where investors’ interests come first, markets function at their best, and economies grow.

There are nearly 200,000 CFA® charterholders worldwide in more than 160 markets. CFA Institute has ten offices worldwide, and there are 160 local societies. For more information, visit or follow us on Linkedin and Twitter at @CFAInstitute.


About Global Sustainable Investment Alliance (GSIA)

GSIA is a global collaboration of sustainable investment membership-based organisations, aiming to unlock the power of the worldwide financial services industry to drive leadership, achieve a substantial impact on key global challenges, and accelerate the transition to a sustainable future.

GSIA simultaneously works to enhance the synergies between members, participate in global initiatives, and provide advice and support to local and regional sustainable investment organizations as they setup and grow.

GSIA’s members are drawn from Europe, Asia-Pacific and North America. Collectively GSIA’s members represent the mainstream of global finance and investment, managing tens of trillions of dollars in assets. GSIA members include Eurosif (European Sustainable Investment Forum), Japan SIF (Japan Sustainable Investment Forum), RIAA (Responsible Investment Association Australasia), RIA Canada (Responsible Investment Association Canada), UKSIF (UK Sustainable Investment and Finance Association), US SIF (the Forum for Sustainable and Responsible Investment).


About The Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI)

The Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI) is the world’s leading proponent of responsible investment. Supported by the United Nations, it works to understand the investment implications of environmental, social and governance (ESG) factors and to support its international network of investor signatories in incorporating these factors into their investment and ownership decisions. The PRI acts in the long-term interests of its signatories, of the financial markets and economies in which they operate and ultimately of the environment and society as a whole. Launched in New York in 2006, the PRI has grown to more than 5,000 signatories, managing over US$121 trillion. For more information visit