To illustrate the idea of global sustainability accounting, we propose a new ledger that shows a highly aggregated and inclusive approach. With this, we respond to the call for new measures to complement GDP by the UN Secretary General. Our approach highlights the tension between human-centered and ecosystem-centered value systems. The ledger is also explicit about disservices the environment may provide to humans, and services that humans may provide to the environment (both can easily be absent in sustainability indicators). We believe that this approach will support debates that are inclusive of diverging environmental value systems and of diverging attitudes toward ecosystem restoration and technology. Most of all, it delivers an account that can compete with the seductive simplicity of GDP.
About the authors: Michael Bordt led multi-disciplinary and international teams in the development of environmental statistics, analysis, and reporting. He was an expert in environmental and ecosystem accounting, science and technology statistics, sustainable manufacturing and innovation. Marc Saner is the Chair of the Department of Geography, Environment and Geomatics at the University of Ottawa in Canada. He works on ethics, governance, and science advice.
Dedication and Acknowledgement: This brief is dedicated to the memory of Dr. Michael Bordt, former Regional Advisor on Environment Statistics at ESCAP and Adjunct Professor at the University of Ottawa, Department of Geography, Environment and Geomatics. Michael tragically passed away on August 5, 2021 and is very much missed by his family and colleagues. He is the lead author of Table 1, the SDG typology, and much of the rest of the text. I worked very closely with him for years and we developed the ethical perspectives together. I took the liberty to finalize this brief as best as I could. I very much appreciate the comments and support from Rikke Munk Hansen, as well as comments by Robert Smith, Ben Cashore and Ryan Katz-Rosene.