Sustainable development depends on decoupling economic growth from resource use. The material footprint indicator accounts for environmental pressure related to a country’s final demand. It measures material use across global supply-chain networks linking production and consumption. For this reason, it has been used as an indicator for two Sustainable Development Goals: 8.4 ‘resource efficiency improvements’ and 12.2 ‘sustainable management of natural resources’. Currently, no reporting facility exists that provides global, detailed and timely information on countries’ material footprints. We present a new collaborative research platform, based on multiregional input–output analysis, that enables countries to regularly produce, update and report detailed global material footprint accounts and monitor progress towards Sustainable Development Goals 8.4 and 12.2. We show that the global material footprint has quadrupled since 1970, driven mainly by emerging economies in the Asia-Pacific region, but with an indication of plateauing since 2014. Capital investments increasingly dominate over household consumption as the main driver. At current trends, absolute decoupling is unlikely to occur over the next few decades. The new collaborative research platform allows to elevate the material footprint to Tier I status in the SDG indicator framework and paves the way to broaden application of the platform to other environmental footprint indicators.