4Sustainability Footprints: Tools for Growth

4.1 Introduction

For more than a three decades, businesses have been producing environmental reports, in some cases being gently coerced by national legislation [1, 2]. Environmental reports usually include indicators such as carbon footprint, which is chosen because of its link to greenhouse gas (GHG) emission reduction performance and climate change risks.

For clarity, sustainability footprints are alternatively defined as methodologies for assessing the social and environmental impact of the economic investment in a specific strategic option in relation to other strategic alternatives and the potential risk to the survival of future generations.

Sustainability footprints comprise the use of carbon footprint, water footprint, ecological footprint, and the emerging concept of social footprints to evaluate the present nonfinancial consequences and future risk implications of strategic decisions. Previous attempts to define sustainability footprints [3] imply the assimilation of ecological footprint methodology with quality of life (QOL), an all-encompassing concept that factors in issues such as air quality, water quality, and soil quality. The scope embodied in the concept of QOL makes its adoption by business firms quite challenging.

Sustainability footprints utilize a full LCA approach in determining environmental impact of projects, products, and processes. Adopting a life cycle approach focuses efforts on material, water, and carbon ...

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