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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 employ Ecological Footprint accounting to manage their ecological capital.

    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.

    Global Footprint Network works with more than 70 partner organizations in two dozen countries and territories to achieve large-scale change.

    Business Model

    Philanthropic and public support, client fees.

    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

    • As of 2014, more than 57 nations have worked with the Global Footprint Network. More than 20 have completed reviews of the Ecological Footprint. Japan, Switzerland, UAE, Ecuador, Latvia, Luxembourg, Scotland, the Philippines, Indonesia, Scotland, Wales, and Finland have formally adopted it.
    • More than a million people around the world use the tool to calculate their own footprint each year.
    • GFN’s Ten-Ten campaign is engaging national governments to establish the Ecological Footprint as a prominent, globally accepted metric as ubiquitous as the GDP.


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

    See All Awardees →