Giving Legs to Handprint Thinking: Foundations for Evaluating the Good We Do

Guillaume, J., Sojamo, S., Porkka, M., Gerten, D., Jalava, M., Lankoski, L., Lehikoinen, E., Lettenmeier, M., et al. (2020). Giving Legs to Handprint Thinking: Foundations for Evaluating the Good We Do. Earth's Future 8 (6) e2019EF001422. 10.1029/2019EF001422.

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Project: Respecting safe operating spaces: opportunities to meet future food demand with sustainable use of water and land resources (SOS.aquaterra, H2020 819202)


In environmental management and sustainability there is an increasing interest in measurement and accounting of beneficial impact—as an incentive to action, as a communication tool, and to move toward a positive, constructive approach focused on opportunities rather than problems. One approach uses the metaphor of a “handprint,” complementing the notion of environmental footprints, which have been widely adopted for impact measurement and accounting. We analyze this idea by establishing core principles of handprint thinking: Handprint encourages actions with positive impacts and connects to analyses of footprint reductions but adds value to them and addresses the issue of what action should be taken. We also identify five key questions that need to be addressed and decisions that need to be made in performing a (potentially quantitative) handprint assessment, related to scoping of the improvement to be made, how it is achieved, and how credit is assigned, taking into account constraints on action. A case study of the potential water footprint reduction of an average Finn demonstrates how handprint thinking can be a natural extension of footprint reduction analyses. We find that there is a diversity of possible handprint assessments that have the potential to encourage doing good. Their common foundation is “handprint thinking.”

Item Type: Article
Research Programs: Water (WAT)
Depositing User: Luke Kirwan
Date Deposited: 06 Jul 2020 06:30
Last Modified: 27 Aug 2021 17:33

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