The Environmental Footprints Explorer - a database for global sustainable accounting
Environmentally Extended Multi Regional Input Output tables and analysis (EE MRIOs) have emerged as one of the main tools to analyze resource use and environmental impacts across international supply chains. They provide insights into the life cycle impacts of the production and consumption of commodities world wide, taking into account the global supply chain of purchased commodities. Currently half a dozen EE MRIO databases are available which differ in their environmental and economic focus as well as in the level of detail. As these databases become more sophisticated, it has become increasingly difficult for the non-expert to access the most important attributes and results of basic calculations. Here we present an integrated web-platform, the Environmental Footprints Explorer (http://www.environmentalfootprints.com), designed to access indicator results calculated based on these databases. The main functionality of the web-platform include (1) exploring environmental accounts based on a single database (2) comparison between databases using a common classification system and (3) exporting analysis results visualization. The presented web-platform removes the obstacle for policy-makers and the public alike to access EE MRIO results.
Evidence guided policy making aiming for lessening the negative environmental and social impacts of our society require a comprehensive accounting principle. Such a principle must not only take into account direct domestic emissions and resource usage but also make the connection across global production networks - ultimately we are often interested in what forms of consumption have driven the impacts caused in production processes.
Global Environmentally Extended Multi Regional Input-Output (EE MRIO) tables provide such an system by taking into account the interrelations between production and consumption. EE MRIO tables link supply chains from the source of an impact, across countries, across processing stages, and to the final consumer. As such, estimates can be made about the amount of greenhouse gas emissions occurring in China to produce steel used in European televisions, or the amount of land used in Brazil required to feed British consumers. An important aspect of EE MRIO tables is that they are macro level economy-wide systems that provide a holistic picture of global production and consumption.
During the last years, several EE MRIO databases have been published (Tukker 2013). These databases differ in their environmental and regional focus and also due to the applied accounting principles and implementation details (Stadler 2014, Owen 2014, Moran 2014).
Analysing EE MRIO databases require a certain degree of training and the increasing size of the underlying matrices also set high requirements on used hardware. Thus, although most of the databases are free to use the detailed results of the analysis of these databases are often hidden in the supplements of scientific articles and reports.