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Charter for Global Footprint Network Committees
4 August 2006
I. Global Footprint Network Committees
The Ecological Footprint is being adopted by a growing number of government agencies, organizations and communities as a measure of environmental performance. It has the potential to become a default indicator for sustainability and to serve as an organizing framework for discussion among policy makers. Widespread adoption benefits all those using the Footprint as existing applications increase in value with each additional use of the Footprint. However, this is dependent on the Footprint maintaining its scientific credibility and accuracy, its policy relevance, and the consistency and appropriateness with which the method is applied and findings communicated.
To this end, Global Footprint Network is establishing two working committees. The
- National Accounts Committee will support continual improvement of the scientific basis of the National Footprint Accounts, which provide conversion factors for Footprint analyses at all scales.
- Standards Committee will develop standards and recommend strategies to ensure that the Footprint is applied in a consistent and appropriate manner in all key domains, at a variety of scales, and over time. Furthermore, the Standards Committee will develop standards and best practices for communications to ensure that the results of Footprint analyses are presented accurately, with assumptions clearly specified and factual findings kept distinct from advocated solutions.
The Ecological Footprint Standards will serve as the basis of a certification system whereby applications and reports can be audited by third-party examiners, and if they conform to the standards, receive a quality seal. Ultimately, the goal is to ensure that certified assessments are accurate, consistent and based on the most current Footprint methodologies and conversion factors, with results reported in a manner that does not misrepresent or mislead. This will build the value of the Footprint for all users, by promoting comparability of Footprint analyses conducted at the same scale, ensuring consistency of results over time, and encouraging clear communications that enhance understanding of the concept, the methodology, and what the results mean.
2. Participation in the Committees
All members, with the exception of the chair (see below), must be associated with partner organizations of Global Footprint Network. Ideally, Committee members will represent the various regions, countries and sectors (e.g., government, corporate, community and academic) that are engaged in applying the Footprint.
Each committee will have 7 to 18 members. An additional seat on each committee will be filled by a staff member of Global Footprint Network. Partner organizations will have the opportunity to nominate candidates for the remaining slots, which, at the discretion of the committee, may or may not be filled.
Committee members will serve staggered 2-year terms, and will nominate the subsequent year’s committee for a vote by Network partners (up to 17 seats for Standards, and up to 9 seats for National Accounts, in addition to the fixed seat dedicated to a Global Footprint Network staff person). Partner organizations may also nominate committee members. Currently, there are no term limits—if nominated and elected, Committee members may serve more than one term. Committee members may also serve on more than one committee at a time. Committee members will serve without compensation and, unless other arrangements are made, will be responsible for any travel expenses required for Committee meetings. All other of the Committee’s operating expenses are the responsibility of Global Footprint Network.
If there is consensus that the initial tasks are complete and subsequent revisions of the National Footprint Accounts or the standards should take place at intervals greater than one year, the Committee may set a suspension or dissolution date.
Role of Global Footprint Network Staff
One seat on each Committee will be reserved for a Global Footprint Network staff member. Global Footprint Network staff may not serve as Chair or Vice-Chair of the Committees.
Global Footprint Network staff also will provide administrative support to Committee Chairs to facilitate meeting arrangements and support web-based document posting.
Selection of Committee Chairs. In order to ensure that all viewpoints are considered, the committees should ideally be chaired by an individual who is supportive of the Footprint, but not wedded to any particular approach. This is the only person on the committee (other than the Global Footprint Network representative) who does not need to be associated with a Network partner. Committee Chairs will be selected by all members of the committee. The Chairs call meetings, propose agendas, and facilitate the meetings of the Committees. Chairs are also responsible for facilitating decision making within their Committees.
Committee Decision Making. Draft standards and recommendations will be considered approved by a Committee once consensus is achieved. Consensus means that no Committee member strongly disagrees with that which is being proposed. If a member blocks consensus, this person is responsible for developing a counterproposal, in collaboration with a member who supports the original proposal. If no agreement can be reached, the Chair determines whether the issue will continue to be debated, or if the conflicting versions will be submitted to a vote. In the latter case, if the proposal receives at least a 2/3 majority vote, it will be considered approved by the Committee. However, aspects of the standards and recommendations that are approved without achieving consensus are identified as such and revisited next time these issues are reviewed.
Role of Global Footprint Network’s Science and Policy Advisory Council. Prior to submission by the Committees of any recommendations to Global Footprint Network, all members of the Network’s Science and Policy Advisory Council shall be given the opportunity to review these recommendations. If Council members have reservations or suggestions, Committee members will work with the Council members to resolve the issue in a manner that addresses these concerns.
Meetings and other Communications. Committee meetings will generally be teleconferences. Committees may decide to meet in person, possibly at locations hosted by one of the Network’s partner organizations. Individuals who are not able to meet in person will be offered the opportunity to participate via conference call.
Committee members will engage in structured e-mail communications in which feedback on proposals is solicited and reviewed. In addition, key issues will be discussed in conference calls held approximately every other month. More frequent communications, if necessary, will be at the discretion of the Committee Chairs.
Meeting minutes, drafts of proposals and other relevant documents will be posted for review on a partners-only area of Global Footprint Network’s website, and partners notified whenever a new document is posted. A formal mechanism will be established that encourages partners to provide feedback regardless of whether or not they sit on a Committee.
Approval Process for Standards and Protocols. The development process for proposed standards (or, in the case of National Footprint Accounts, protocols and methodologies) will be guided by the ISEAL Code of Good Practice. 1 The general process flow is as follows:
- The Committee identifies the need for a new or revised document. This document may be a standard, a protocol or a methodology.
- The Committee solicits input from Partner organizations, and posts a notice of the activity on the public Web site, with contact information for interested parties.
- Being mindful of the input received in response to this notice, the Committee will prepare an initial draft document, and post it for the initial public review period. Partner organizations, the Science and Policy Advisory Council and any registered interested parties will be noticed of this posting.
- Based on comments received in this review period, the Committee will make appropriate revisions and repost for a second public comment period, again giving notice to interested parties.
- After the second comment period, the Committee will address all new comments, and release the final document, with a specified implementation date.
4. Avoidance of Conflict of Interest
Because Global Footprint Network develops and manages the National Footprint Accounts, and manages the Standards Development process, the potential for a conflict of interest exists. In order to minimize this potential problem and to ensure that there is a clear path for identifying and addressing this problem, should it arise, the following policy is in effect:
- All proposed Standards will be developed according to the process outlined in Sec. 3 (Procedures) to ensure that all decisions are made in public and to maintain full transparency for all interested parties.
- Standards may not require proprietary methods or data that would prevent any competent agency from conducting a standards-compliant Footprint study. 2
- All methods and data sources called for in the Standards must be fully transparent.
- All data sets must be clearly identified.
- All specified data sets must be available to the public.
- All methodology and assumptions must be documented and publicly available at a level of detail that permits the results to be duplicated.
- Global Footprint Network may not unilaterally introduce or implement a Standard, or change the Standards. In all cases changes to Standards are made via the Committee process.
- Changes to the National Footprint Accounts require the approval of the National Accounts Review Committee, which will only occur after all Partners have had an opportunity to comment on the proposed changes.
- If a conflict of interest is identified, the matter will be noticed to the Standards Committee. The Standards Committee will convene a panel from among the Global Footprint Network Partners to hear the issue, and decide on the appropriate remedies to mitigate the conflict of interest. 3
5. Budget Considerations
Partner contributions and National Footprint Accounts license fees are used to support our Research and Standards Program and specifically, the coordination and support costs for our committees. In addition, we look to committee members to provide in-kind contributions of staff time and facilities as they are able. However, because partner contributions and license fees do not cover all our Research and Standards Program costs, it is anticipated that fundraising for the various activities of the three Committees will be necessary, and that this will be an ongoing, collaborative effort between Global Footprint Network and its partner organizations. As the work of the committees develops, committee members will be encouraged to consider which aspects of the work can stand alone as fundable projects, and to help the Network identify and approach potential sources of funding.
II. Scope of the Individual Committees
1. Scope of the National Accounts Committee
The Committee will be responsible for guiding research and development of the accounts, supporting quality assurance of the results, ensuring scientific and stakeholder approval of the methodology and results, and providing peer review of the National Footprint Accounts. The goal is to ensure that national Footprint results are as accurate and robust as possible.
In order to ensure consistent source data for Ecological Footprint calculations, the Ecological Footprint Standards specifically reference the National Footprint Accounts as maintained by Global Footprint Network as the official National Footprint Accounts for standards compliant Ecological Footprint studies. It is the intent of Global Footprint Network and its partner organizations to continuously improve the National Footprint Accounts by working with all interested parties to evaluate proposed improvements, and, by Committee decision, determine which proposed improvements to implement.
The Committee operates by:
- Soliciting input from and working with interested parties to achieve a broad consensus on Footprint science and methodology for nations and for the globe as a whole;
- Identifying key areas of research and development that will improve the calculation methodology, and helping to secure resources for implementation;
- Soliciting advice from experts in particular areas to clarify scientific issues the committee is addressing;
- Developing a structure and agenda for a scientific review process, to ensure that all data sources and methodological approaches have been reviewed by scientists with recognized expertise in each of the domains addressed by the Footprint;
- Creating and supporting a quality assurance process to ensure sound results;
- Engaging with Global Footprint Network in setting an agenda for update intervals, and determining strategies for managing issues associated with version upgrades;
- Helping the Standards Committees resolve issues relevant to the National Footprint Accounts;
Specifically, the Committee will:
- Set an internal schedule for committee meetings and for generating results;
- Identify concerns of users and stakeholders and negotiate priorities and schedules for addressing the identified concerns with Global Footprint Network staff;
- Work closely with National Footprint Accounts program director at Global Footprint Network to implement recommended changes;
- Identify strategies to find adequate resources for the development of the National Footprint Accounts.
2. Scope of the Standards Committee
The Applications Standards Committee is charged with developing a set of Ecological Footprinting standards that will ensure validity and reliability of Footprint applications at all scales and consistency of methodology across similar applications. It may establish ad-hoc working groups to address particular issues such as regional accounting, municipal applications, boundary setting, definition of terms, coordination with life cycle analysis, standardization of land-use matrices, and how to address ecological demands that are not currently included in the Footprint, such as fresh water use, toxics and land degradation.
Furthermore, the Committee is charged with developing a set of Ecological Footprinting standards that will ensure reporting of results in an accurate, unbiased, and non- judgmental manner. This will ensure that the findings derived from Footprint applications are reported fairly, that the findings are clearly distinguished from policy recommendations, that the research question addressed by the Footprint is not misrepresented or exaggerated, and that reports clearly indicate the version of the National Footprint Accounts on which they are based.
Specifically, the Committee will:
- Solicit input from all interested parties and work to achieve a broad consensus on appropriate ways to apply the Footprint in practice;
- Make recommendations to the National Accounts Committee for research and improvements to the National Footprint calculation methodology and data organization that would facilitate practical application of the Footprint;
- Solicit advice from experts to clarify scientific issues the committee is addressing;
- Develop recommendations for standards that will help ensure Footprint applications are conducted in a sound and consistent manner;
- Develop recommendations for the development of protocols and tools such as application software, standardized national activity/land-use matrices, and boundary setting guidelines that will enable Footprint practitioners to more easily conform to the standards;
- Solicit input from all interested parties and work to achieve a broad consensus on appropriate ways to communicate results of Footprint analyses;
- Develop recommendations for standards that will help ensure Footprint applications are reported in a manner that accurately portrays what information a Footprint analysis can and cannot provide, and makes it clear that the Footprint is an unbiased analytical tool that does not endorse any particular policy or agenda;
- Determine a procedure for updating the Standards when necessary, and tactics for minimizing or handling any incompatibilities between new and prior versions of the Standards;
Release of Draft Standards and Recommendations. In order to avoid confusion, any interim release of standards or recommendations (e.g., for feedback or beta testing) by the Committee must clearly specify that these are a preliminary, draft version rather than the final or official version.
3. Additional Role of the Ecological Footprint Committees
The Committees will review the standards, protocols and procedures and revise them on an annual basis or as necessary in order to ensure continuous improvement of the Footprint analyses and reporting as the science and applications evolve. Development of updated versions of the documents will follow the same procedures outlined for new standards, procedures and protocols.Furthermore, the Committees are responsible for monitoring and measuring the effectiveness of the standards and protocols. To do so, they will:
- Establish performance measures
- Identify what will be measured, and how
- Determine reporting procedures
- Improve the Standards, by revising standards which have been identified through monitoring as needing change.
Once the initial Standards are published, Global Footprint Network and its partners will develop a third-party process to provide certification for Footprint analyses that are in compliance with the published Standards.
DOCUMENT REVISION INFORMATION
Charter Revision 2:
This revision is based on comments received from Global Footprint Network Partner organizations and the learnings of the Committee members during the first year of Committee activities.
Specific changes include:
- Removed references in text to the first year’s plans
- Combined the Applications Standards and Communications Standards
Committees into a single, larger Standards Committee.
- Removed references to Applications and Communications Standards Committees.
- Changed the number of members for the Standards Committee.
- Explicitly reserved on seat on Committees for a Global Footprint Network staff member
- Combined sections II.2 and II.3; hence, Section II.4 was renumbered to SectionII.3
- Changed Committee terms to 2-year staggered terms, beginning with the 2006 – 2007 Committee year.
- Changed the term “National Footprint and Biocapacity Accounts” to National Footprint Accounts to be consistent with Ecological Footprint Standards 2006 terminology.
- Clarified the scope of the National Accounts Committee (Section II.1) to expressly reflect the intent that the National Accounts Review Committee is intended to evaluate all proposed changes to the National Footprint Accounts, whether generated by Global Footprint Network, its partners, or other parties.
- Added a new section, Section I.4, Avoidance of Conflict of Interest
- Revised Section I.3, Approval Process for Standards and Protocols, to remove the requirement for ratification by the Global Footprint Network Board.
1 International Social and Environmental Accreditation and Labeling Alliance. See http://www.isealalliance.org
2 Sections 4.2 and 4.3 neither restrict nor prohibit the use of proprietary methods in conducting Footprint studies. Use of proprietary methods will not prevent studies from being certified as Standards compliant, so long as standards relevant information is provided at the necessary level of transparency for certification. Proprietary methods may only be required by the Standards if those methods are made available for licensing to any interested party.
3 Appropriate remedies are limited to steps to reverse the impact of the conflict of interest. This does not include financial remedies.