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  • Awarded: 2007
  • Issue Areas: Clean Energy · Environmental Sustainability · Living Conditions · Responsible Supply Chains · Sustainable Markets · Water Management
  • Countries Served: USA · Canada · Australia · Austria · Belgium · China · Colombia · Ecuador · France · India · Italy · Japan · Kenya · Luxembourg · Qatar · Switzerland · United Arab Emirates · United Kingdom
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    About the Organization

    Humans are using more resources than the Earth can provide. We are in global ecological overshoot.

    In 2003, Global Footprint Network was established to enable a sustainable future where all people have the opportunity to live satisfying lives within the means of one planet.

    An essential step in creating a one-planet future is measuring human impact on the Earth so we can make more informed choices.

    That is why Global Footprint Network aims to accelerate the use of the Ecological Footprint – a resource accounting tool that measures how much nature we have, how much we use, and who uses what. The Network envisions a future in which human demands on nature are monitored as closely as the stock market.

    The Ecological Footprint is a data-driven metric that tells us how close we are to the goal of sustainable living. Footprint accounts work like bank statements, documenting whether we are living within our ecological budget or consuming nature’s resources faster than the planet can renew them.

    Human demand for ecological resources and services is in a state of "ecological overshoot", with demand exceeding supply by more than 60 percent.

    GFN coordinates research and standards, and gives decision-makers data to face tightening resource constraints.

    Founders Susan Burns and Mathis Wackernagel seek to maintain human well-being through recognition of ecological limits.

    More than 57 nations have worked with the Global Footprint Network.

    Ambition for Change

    Decision-makers use Ecological Footprint accounting to manage nature resources, guide sustainability policy, and engage individuals and communities.

    Path to Scale

    Promoting data, tools, and analysis linking resource constraints to economies and well-being, Global Footprint Network influences major investments and policy shifts to support global sustainability. In order to make Footprint calculations relevant and empowering for any user, Global Footprint Network is communicating the results in creative and engaging ways through its online Footprint Calculator (2.5 million annual users), Earth Overshoot Day campaign (+1.5 billion media impressions), and Footprint Explorer open data platform (105k unique annual visitors). The organization is expanding the reach and of the Ecological Footprint by building an international academic network.

    Mathis Wackernagel’s father introduced him to The Limits to Growth when he was 10, and he grew up with a vivid awareness of the potential for global ecological collapse. He became an and developed the Ecological Footprint, a science-based tool that graphically shows depletion of ecological assets, while completing his Ph.D. at the University of British Columbia. He has worked on sustainability issues with businesses, academics, NGOs and governments around the world. Susan Burns, also an engineer, is a lifelong nature enthusiast and founder of Natural Strategies, a sustainability consulting firm. She created a business case for sustainability and promoted groundbreaking concepts in pollution prevention and industrial ecology. The couple launched Global Footprint Network (GFN) in 2003 to advance the Ecological Footprint, coordinate research, develop methodology standards and provide decision makers with resource accounts to help humans operate within the Earth’s ecological limits. GFN coordinates research, develops methodological standards, and releases annual data, giving decision-makers the data they need to succeed in a world facing tightening resource constraints. At the time of the Award, two national governments (Wales and Ireland) had adopted the Ecological Footprint as an indicator of sustainability, and it was being used by hundreds of cities and counties.

    Impact & Accomplishments

    • Global Footprint Network has supported more than 12 countries in their national sustainability strategies, and we have directly engaged with at least 30 cities.
    • Global Footprint Network also stimulates advocacy for sustainable actions in the following ways:
    • Footprint Calculator
      • Since 2008, more than 13 million people from around the world have used the Calculator, including more than 2.5 million users in 2017. Additionally: Cities (including from Portugal and Canada) are using the Calculator as part of their sustainability planning to educate and engage residents. It has been widely used by teachers (middle and high school levels) and college professors to around the world. Business are using the tool as a form of employee engagement to promote sustainability. NGOs, such as WWF national offices, have embedded customized versions of the Calculator on their websites. The Calculator has been used to engage visitors at museums (Brazil, Italy and California).
    • Earth Overshoot Day Sustainability Campaign-  The annual initiative has expanded from a media campaign into a public engagement campaign. In 2017, there were almost 2,000 webpage and media mentions in 104 countries, resulting in 1.5+ billion media impressions, including front page coverage in France in top newspapers (Le Monde, Libération, Le Figaro and others). French Minister of Ecological Transition, Nicolas Hulot, addressed the French Assembly using Earth Overshoot Day to strengthen his case for new climate change legislation.
    • Open Data Platform (Ecological Footprint Explorer) There were more than 105,000 unique visitors to the open data platform in 2017. Some 2,000 universities around the world have downloaded Ecological Footprint data for research, articles and books. Global Footprint Network’s data and graphs are citied in virtually every sustainability report, as the data is used to tell a story and to demonstrate collective trends and variations around nations/regions.


    Susan BurnsFounder, Board Member & Director, Finance for Change, Global Footprint Network

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