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A Review of the Ecological Footprint Indicator—Perceptions and Methods

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  • Thomas Wiedmann

    () (Centre for Sustainability Accounting, Innovation Centre, Innovation Way, York Science Park, York, YO10 5DG, UK)

  • John Barrett

    (Centre for Sustainability Accounting, Innovation Centre, Innovation Way, York Science Park, York, YO10 5DG, UK)

Abstract

We present a comprehensive review of perceptions and methods around the Ecological Footprint (EF), based on a survey of more than 50 international EF stakeholders and a review of more than 150 original papers on EF methods and applications over the last decade. The key points identified in the survey are that the EF (a) is seen as a strong communication tool, (b) has a limited role within a policy context, (c) is limited in scope, (d) should be closer aligned to the UN System of Environmental and Economic Accounting and (e) is most useful as part of a basket of indicators. Key issues from the review of methods are: (a) none of the major methods identified can address all relevant issues and questions at once, (b) basing bioproductivity calculations on Net Primary Production (NPP) is a promising approach, (c) advances in linking bioproductivity with ecosystem services and biodiversity have been made by the Dynamic EF concept and the HANPP indicator, (d) environmentally extended input-output analysis (IOA) provides a number of advantages for improving EF calculations and (e) further variations such as the emergy-based concept or the inclusion of further pollutants are not regarded as providing a fundamental shift to the usefulness of EF for policy making. We also discuss the implications of our findings for the use of the EF as a headline indicator for sustainability decision-making.

Suggested Citation

  • Thomas Wiedmann & John Barrett, 2010. "A Review of the Ecological Footprint Indicator—Perceptions and Methods," Sustainability, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 2(6), pages 1-49, June.
  • Handle: RePEc:gam:jsusta:v:2:y:2010:i:6:p:1645-1693:d:8585
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    Cited by:

    1. O'Neill, Daniel W., 2012. "Measuring progress in the degrowth transition to a steady state economy," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 84(C), pages 221-231.
    2. Gaodi Xie & Wenhui Chen & Shuyan Cao & Chunxia Lu & Yu Xiao & Changshun Zhang & Na Li & Shuo Wang, 2014. "The Outward Extension of an Ecological Footprint in City Expansion: The Case of Beijing," Sustainability, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 6(12), pages 1-16, December.
    3. Camilo Martínez-Iglesias & Alevgül H. Sorman & Mario Giampietro & Jesus Ramos-Martin, 2014. "Assessing biophysical limits to the economic development of remote islands: the case of Isabela in the Galapagos Archipelago," Documentos de Trabajo CEPROEC 2014_01, Instituto de Altos Estudios Nacionales, Centro de Prospectiva Estratégica.
    4. Debrupa Chakraborty & Joyashree Roy, 2015. "Ecological footprint of paperboard and paper production unit in India," Environment, Development and Sustainability: A Multidisciplinary Approach to the Theory and Practice of Sustainable Development, Springer, vol. 17(4), pages 909-921, August.
    5. Matthew T. Ballew & Allen M. Omoto & Patricia L. Winter, 2015. "Using Web 2.0 and Social Media Technologies to Foster Proenvironmental Action," Sustainability, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 7(8), pages 1-29, August.
    6. Min-Chun Yu & Min-Hong Su, 2017. "Using Fuzzy DEA for Green Suppliers Selection Considering Carbon Footprints," Sustainability, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 9(4), pages 1-11, March.
    7. Jean-Marc Douguet & Martin O 'Connor & Jean-Pierre Doussoulin & Philippe Lanceleur & Karine Philippot, 2014. "L'Empreinte Écologique Du Parc Naturel De La Haute Vallée De Chevreuse : Du Concept À La Construction De L'Outil," Working Papers hal-01243385, HAL.
    8. repec:eee:ecolec:v:146:y:2018:i:c:p:370-380 is not listed on IDEAS
    9. Olafsson, Snjolfur & Cook, David & Davidsdottir, Brynhildur & Johannsdottir, Lara, 2014. "Measuring countries׳ environmental sustainability performance – A review and case study of Iceland," Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, Elsevier, vol. 39(C), pages 934-948.
    10. Kai Fang & Reinout Heijungs & Zheng Duan & Geert R. de Snoo, 2015. "The Environmental Sustainability of Nations: Benchmarking the Carbon, Water and Land Footprints against Allocated Planetary Boundaries," Sustainability, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 7(8), pages 1-21, August.
    11. Teixidó-Figueras, Jordi & Duro, Juan Antonio, 2015. "The building blocks of International Ecological Footprint inequality: A Regression-Based Decomposition," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 118(C), pages 30-39.
    12. Pilkington, Brian & Roach, Richard & Perkins, James, 2011. "Relative benefits of technology and occupant behaviour in moving towards a more energy efficient, sustainable housing paradigm," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 39(9), pages 4962-4970, September.
    13. Henders, Sabine & Ostwald, Madelene, 2014. "Accounting methods for international land-related leakage and distant deforestation drivers," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 99(C), pages 21-28.
    14. Holden, Erling & Linnerud, Kristin & Banister, David, 2013. "Sustainable passenger transport: Back to Brundtland," Transportation Research Part A: Policy and Practice, Elsevier, vol. 54(C), pages 67-77.
    15. POPESCU Alexandra-Codruta & SIPOS Ciprian Alexandru, 2015. "Green Logistics - A Condition Of Sustainable Development," Revista Economica, Lucian Blaga University of Sibiu, Faculty of Economic Sciences, vol. 67(4), pages 112-130.
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    More about this item

    Keywords

    ecological footprint; perception; methodology; policy relevance;

    JEL classification:

    • Q - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics
    • Q0 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - General
    • Q2 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Renewable Resources and Conservation
    • Q3 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Nonrenewable Resources and Conservation
    • Q5 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics
    • Q56 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics - - - Environment and Development; Environment and Trade; Sustainability; Environmental Accounts and Accounting; Environmental Equity; Population Growth
    • O13 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Agriculture; Natural Resources; Environment; Other Primary Products

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