The Metabolism of socio-economic Systems. Combination of Input-Output analysis and Material Flow Accounting for footprint-type indicators

Thesis event information

Date and time of the thesis defence

Place of the thesis defence

Linnanmaa, auditorium L6

Topic of the dissertation

The Metabolism of socio-economic Systems. Combination of Input-Output analysis and Material Flow Accounting for footprint-type indicators

Doctoral candidate

Master of Science (Econ.) Pablo Piñero

Faculty and unit

University of Oulu Graduate School, Faculty of Technology, Water, Energy and Environmental Engineering Research Unit

Subject of study

Industrial Ecology, Ecological Economics


Associate Professor Nina Eisenmenger, University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences, Austria


Professor Eva Pongrácz, University of Oulu.

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Measuring the environmental impacts of the economy and progress toward circular economy

Making Finland and the EU more resource-efficient is a top priority and having robust and transparent indicators is crucial for that purpose. This research develops accounting techniques which allow to estimate environmental pressures due to natural resource use in a country.

The thesis focuses on the ‘material footprint’ indicator, which measure how consumption and raw material extraction are related. More precisely, the material footprint informs about the amounts and the channels by which international trade, industries and consumers drive, for instance, forestry and agriculture activities, metal mining or fossil fuel extraction. This indicator is relevant because natural resource extraction and processing causes environmental pressures on natural ecosystems and thus, it could be used to set policy targets and design roadmaps towards a nature-friendly and clean-carbon economy.

The work explored innovative ways to improve the calculation of the material footprint applying different approaches. It was shown that for avoiding biased results when estimating the material footprint, which could compromise policies and agreements, detail data for primary sectors is key. It was also demonstrated that having at hand information about technology production of certain trade partners have high potential to refine the estimation of the material footprint, notably for environmental pressures exert on foreign environments.

Finally, a new accounting approach based on value added was introduced in this thesis, the ‘value added-based material footprint’. The reasoning behind this new metric is very simple: the more benefits an actor generates, e.g. an industry or a country, the higher its responsibility to make more sustainable the supply chain it belongs. Applying this approach provide new perspectives on the important discussion about a fair distribution of environmental conservation costs among countries, companies and consumers.
Last updated: 1.3.2023