“Ecological Footprint” leaving a trail at OECD

Something missing?
Something missing?

Suzi Tart, OECD Environment Directorate

Analytics data reveals that the most popular search term on the OECD website for 2015 is “BEPS”. This stands for “Base Erosion and Profit Shifting” and refers to the latest OECD tax project making a big splash the world over. The next four top searches, in order are: “ecological footprint”; “PISA”; “GDP”; and “tax haven”. One of these things is not like the others. That would be “ecological footprint,” which has caused several employees here at the Environment Directorate to do some proverbial head scratching. Unlike the other terms, the OECD has yet to explicitly publish anything on this topic.

Website analytics go on to show that most of the visitors who are searching for “ecological footprint” end up visiting the Household Consumption project. This project is unique in that it explores how national-level policies impact household behaviour. Topics include energy use, food consumption, personal transport choices, waste generation and recycling, and water consumption. Yet the project does not specifically discuss the term “ecological footprint,” and it retains a macro-policy focus, targeting governments interested in learning which policies to implement.

Perhaps the Household Consumption project is indeed the information website visitors are searching for. Or perhaps they are looking for data on the ecological footprints of countries—data that does not currently exist in one OECD report, but would be interesting to compile together for a special edition of Environment at a Glance. The OECD currently publishes per capita-level data on several ecological footprint indicators (for example: meat consumption, greenhouse gas emissions, material resource extraction and consumption, water withdrawal, and municipal waste, to name a few), and it could easily complement these with its national-level data on aspects such as passenger transport and intensity of forest use to provide an interesting perspective on the average ecological footprint of countries’ citizens.

Another possibility is that visitors are seeking more information relating to @OECD_ENV’s recent #WhatCanIdo social media campaign, or the #EnergyPulse posts by staff on Twitter. Yet another plausible presumption is that online searchers want information on the OECD’s own ecological footprint. Since 2010, an official [email protected] campaign has strived to reduce the organisation’s negative environmental impact. An environmental progress report by the campaign notes that while water and waste consumption levels have gone up over time, greenhouse gas emissions related to OECD buildings have dropped 65%.

Regardless of the reason OECD website visitors have been searching for the term “ecological footprint,” it is encouraging to see that more people are concerned about the environment and are looking for ways to lessen their impact at a personal level. It is, as one might say, a step in the right direction.

Searching for “ecological footprint”? Message us on Twitter @OECD_ENV to let us help you in your search!

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