Ultimately, consumption accounts for all impacts. Think of food: its production and consumption will usually involve fertilizers, pesticides, water extraction, land use (and sometimes conversion), transport, processing, packaging, preparation, disposal and so on. Every step will involve energy and emissions. In some steps, biodiversity and ecosystem health will be affected. Some of the impacts will occur prior to the sale of the food to an individual, others will occur after, in transport, cooking and disposal. Waste occurs throughout. Social challenges will arise throughout the value chain too. The same is true of consumer goods, of transport, of homes.
Unless we understand the full picture of where social and environmental impacts are occurring, how can we know what solutions need to be designed, let alone which tools we need to design them?
But how can we even get this full picture? How can we compare biodiversity impacts from mining with the emissions from personal transportation or changes to the nitrogen cycle from agricultural run off?
We need to look at the various ways we have of measuring impacts (carbon, biodiversity, materials usage, ecological demand, etc.) and help business to make sense of where and how measuring impacts can drive innovation in production, in infrastructure, in use.
By examining consumption trends as well as today’s habits, we are able to provide companies with predictions regarding where future impacts will be most significant and therefore where action will have the greatest positive effect.
We also consider social challenges and opportunities that can be addressed alongside the environmental impacts that footprinting provides insights into.