Environmental footprint family to address local to planetary sustainability and deliver on the SDGs

Davy Vanham, Adrian Leip, Alessandro Galli, Thomas Kastner, Martin Bruckner, Aimable Uwizeye, Kimo van Dijk, Ertug Ercin, Carole Dalin, Miguel Brandão, Simone Bastianoni, Kai Fang, Allison Leach, Ashok Chapagain, Marijn Van der Velde, Serenella Sala, Rana Pant, Lucia Mancini, Fabio Monforti-Ferrario, Gema Carmona-GarciaAlexandra Marques, Franz Weiss, Arjen Y. Hoekstra

Publication: Scientific journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


The number of publications on environmental footprint indicators has been growing rapidly, but with limited efforts to integrate different footprints into a coherent framework. Such integration is important for comprehensive understanding of environmental issues, policy formulation and assessment of trade-offs between different environmental concerns. Here, we systematize published footprint studies and define a family of footprints that can be used for the assessment of environmental sustainability. We identify overlaps between different footprints and analyse how they relate to the nine planetary boundaries and visualize the crucial information they provide for local and planetary sustainability. In addition, we assess how the footprint family delivers on measuring progress towards Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), considering its ability to quantify environmental pressures along the supply chain and relating them to the water-energy-food-ecosystem (WEFE) nexus and ecosystem services. We argue that the footprint family is a flexible framework where particular members can be included or excluded according to the context or area of concern. Our paper is based upon a recent workshop bringing together global leading experts on existing environmental footprint indicators.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)13364
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Publication statusPublished - 2019

Austrian Classification of Fields of Science and Technology (ÖFOS)

  • 107004 Human ecology
  • 502042 Environmental economics
  • 502022 Sustainable economics
  • 502041 Environmental management
  • 105904 Environmental research

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