Sustainable Development: Ecological Footprint in Accounting

Authored by: Simone Bastianoni , Valentina Niccolucci , Elena Neri , Gemma Cranston , Alessandro Galli , Mathis Wackernagel

Managing Human and Social Systems

Print publication date:  July  2020
Online publication date:  July  2020

Print ISBN: 9781138342682
eBook ISBN: 9781003053514
Adobe ISBN:


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Due to the growing human demand for planetary resources and ecosystem services, ensuring sustainable development through the management of the planet’s ecological assets is becoming a central issue for policy and decision makers around the world. To understand the driving forces behind these demands and to find ways to reduce them while maintaining economic and societal well-being, new empirical measurements are needed, which can complement traditional analyses. One such tool could be the Ecological Footprint. Starting from a detailed review of the most up-to-date theory and practice in Ecological Footprint analyses, the rationale of the footprint methodology, its research question, as well as its accounting framework is explained. The Ecological Footprint is a resource accounting tool that measures humanity’s demands upon the natural biosphere. It tracks the biologically productive land and water required to produce all the resources a population consumes and to sequester its wastes (in this case, carbon dioxide emissions). A detailed discussion of the role that the Ecological Footprint can have as a tool for measuring (minimum criteria for) sustainable development is provided. There are a variety of applications for the Ecological Footprint, from the individual to the global level. It is primarily used at the national level, where decision makers can extract information about their consumption patterns and availability of biocapacity. National governments and local administrations are already utilizing the Ecological Footprint; a summary of these case studies is included. Recently, the Ecological Footprint has also been extended to the level of products and businesses to assess the efficiency of production or the impacts that products and services have upon the planet; a summary of the main case studies is also provided.

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