The Social Footprint Method is a measurement and reporting tool that quantifies the social sustainability performance of an organization. In this regard, the Social Footprint is similar to the Ecological Footprint, which is a method for measuring and reporting the ecological impact of a human population. Unlike the Ecological Footprint, however, which measures a population’s use of, and impact on, natural resources (i.e., natural capital), the Social Footprint deals with impacts on what we call anthro capital (comprised of human, social and constructed capital).
The Social Footprint Method 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 exclusively produced by people and can be created virtually at will. When confronted with shortages of anthro capital, we can almost always create more of it if we want to.
Thus, the gaps that must be closed in the case of anthro capital are not sustainability gaps between fixed resources we have and fixed resources we need; rather, they are gaps between non-fixed resources we have and non-fixed resources we could have more of if only we chose to produce them. The extent to which an organization contributes to either causing or closing such gaps is what the Social Footprint Method measures, be they positive contributions or negative ones.
What further differentiates the Social Footprint Method from other sustainability reporting tools is the manner in which it measures performance against standards of performance. Top-line, trend-oriented tools are a step in the right direction, but only the Social Footprint Method provides a means of producing true bottom-line measures of corporate social sustainability using standards of performance as a guide. No other CSR method does this.