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




Guillaume, Joseph
Sojamo, Suvi
Porkka, Miina
Gerten, Dieter
Jalava, Mika
Lankoski, Leena
Lehikoinen, Elina
Lettenmeier, Michael
Pfister, Stephan
Usva, Kirsi

Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title


American Geophysical Union


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.”





Earth's Future


Journal article

Book Title

Entity type

Access Statement

Open Access

License Rights

Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives License



Restricted until