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'Social footprints': new measure for social sustainability performance of organizations

11 November 2008

In his thesis, Mark McElroy proposes a methodology for measuring the social sustainability performance of organizations – the Social Footprint Method (SFM). In so doing, he introduces a measurement model, the sustainability quotient, a mathematical construct that expresses organizational impacts on various capitals required for human well-being (quantified in numerators) with normative claims for what such impacts ought to be (quantified in denominators).

Sustainability seminar FEB
On Thursday 20 November (the day of his thesis defence) McElroy is one of the speakers on the seminar ‘Determining and Measuring Sustainability’ at the Faculty of Economics and Business. More information .


McElroy further differentiates between existing environmental sustainability measurement tools, such as the Ecological Footprint Method (EFM), and the SFM in two ways. First is the difference in the capitals involved. Whereas the EFM focuses on natural capital, the SFM focuses on human, social, and constructed capitals, or what McElroy calls, collectively, anthro capital (i.e. anthropogenic, or human-made, capital).

Second is the general criterion for determining sustainability in societal versus ecological quotients. In the latter case, the criterion is a not-to-exceed one, since natural capital is limited and in fixed supply. For societal quotients, however, the logic reverses. The criterion is a not-to-fall-below one, since anthro capital is anthropogenic, and can almost always be increased.

By recognizing the general epistemological and capital-based elements of sustainability measurement, McElroy succeeds in creating a quantitative means for measuring the social sustainability performance of organizations.


M.W. McElroy will be awarded his PhD in economics and business on 20 November (4.15 pm). His supervisors are prof. R.J. Jorna and prof. J.M.L. van Engelen. The thesis title is: Social footprints. Measuring the social sustainability performance of organizations.

Last modified:31 January 2018 11.52 a.m.
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