Indicators for Calculating the Material Footprint

New methods allow assessment of trends in resource use

  • News 11.02.2019

The Sustainable Development Goal 12 (SDG 12) calls for sustainable production and consumption. One indicator of resource use mentioned in the SDG is the (national) Material Footprint. A method that differentiates the Material Footprint for production and consumption according to sectors, consumption fields and socio-economic criteria, for example, does not yet exist. However, this is the only way to develop tailor-made policies that have a positive and sustainable impact on the use of resources.
The recently published paper "Measure or Management? – Resource Use Indicators for Policymakers Based on Microdata by Households" by the Wuppertal Institute describes two different solutions for this requirement. The authors Dr. Johannes Buhl, Prof. Christa Liedtke, Jens Teubler, Katrin Bienge, and Nicholas Schmidt from the Sustainable Production and Consumption Division at the Wuppertal Institute, present two methods and their results for the resource consumption of private households on the basis of microdata:

  • Resource Consumption Indicator: an indicator based on representative expenditure data in Germany, and
  • Resource Lifestyle Footprint; an indicator based on survey data from a web tool.

In this way, the authors aim to contribute to monitoring the objectives of sustainable development, in particular sustainable management and efficient use of natural resources. Indicators based on micro-data ensure that indicators can be broken down by socio-economic characteristics such as age, gender, income or geographical location. The results of the two methods show an unequal distribution of the material footprint in Germany and a larger material footprint with a higher household income. 

The methods allow researchers and policymakers to assess trends in resource use and distinguish between lifestyles and socio-economic characteristics. This in turn would make it possible to tailor sustainable consumption policies to the needs and constraints of households.

The article has been published in MDPI in the journal „Sustainability“ (volume 10, issue 12) and can be downloaded from the following link.


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