In recent years, attempts have been made to develop an integrated Footprint approach for the assessment of the environmental impacts of production and consumption. In this paper, we provide for the first time a definition of the “Footprint Family” as a suite of indicators to track human pressure on the planet and under different angles. This work has been developed under the 7th Framework Programme in the European Commission (EC) funded One Planet Economy Network: Europe (OPEN:EU) project. It builds on the premise that no single indicator per se is able to comprehensively monitor human impact on the environment, but indicators rather need to be used and interpreted jointly. A description of the research question, rationale and methodology of the Ecological, Carbon and Water Footprint is first provided. Similarities and differences among the three indicators are then highlighted to show how these indicators overlap, interact, and complement each other. The paper concludes by defining the “Footprint Family” of indicators and outlining its appropriate policy use for the European Union (EU). We believe this paper can be of high interest for both policy makers and researchers in the field of ecological indicators, as it brings clarity on most of the misconceptions and misunderstanding around Footprint indicators, their accounting frameworks, messages, and range of application.

Alessandro Gallia, Thomas Wiedmannb, Ertug Ercinc, Doris Knoblauchd, Brad Ewinge, and Stefan Giljumf