The Social Footprint Method (SFM) is a context-based approach to measurement and reporting that expresses the social sustainability performance of an organization. In this regard, the Social Footprint is merely a narrow application of context-based sustainability, which in its broader form covers sustainability performance in all of its dimensions, not just the social one.
In practice, the SFM is similar to the Ecological Footprint, which is a method for measuring and reporting the ecological sustainability performance of human social systems. Unlike the Ecological Footprint, however, which measures a population's use of and impacts on natural resources (i.e., natural capital), the SFM deals with impacts on what we call anthro capital (consisting of human, social and constructed, or built, capital).
The Social Footprint differs from the Ecological Footprint in another very important way. Unlike natural or ecological capital, which is limited and which humans do not create, most forms of anthro capital are produced by people and can be grown virtually at will. When confronted with shortages of anthro capital, we can almost always create more of it given the will to do so.
What really differentiates the SFM from other sustainability reporting tools is the manner in which it measures performance against standards of performance assigned to specific organizations (i.e., for impacts on anthro capitals). Such standards are set by reference to whom an organization’s stakeholders are, and what its duties and obligations are to each of them to have impact (or not) on anthro capitals of vital importance to their well-being. No other sustainability method does this.
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