Skip navigation
Share via:


The World SDG is real science for economic choices, global ESG balance sheet shares of responsibility for securing our home and future.



We need a new world economic accounting standard, so businesses can publish "ESG-balance" sheets in their annual reports, as inclusive scientific assessments of responsibility for the earth.  

That's been scientifically possible since 2011, when a tremendous undercounting of business responsibilities was found, built into the world standard impact measurement methods, and a better alternative offered.  (Henshaw, King &  Zarnikau 2011 Systems Energy Assessment. Sustainability (online journal),

There are two major flaws in the present scientific method of measuring the sustainability impacts of business and consumer choices, 

1.    Responsibility for environmental impacts only counts those from recorded business technology use, (ignoring the consumption impacts of business people).

2.    No accounting of responsibility is done for readily measured global economic impacts that businesses don't record.

These large scale omissions don't mean that global impact measures are inaccurate, only the shares of direct responsibility for them.  The business community is not realizing yet that **someone needs to take responsibility for ALL the mounting costs of undermining our future**.. IF... the economy as a whole is to remain profitable, and not go literally bankrupt with nature, facing greater overhead costs than the world will have income to pay for.

With a system for aggregating the best global data and continually improving on it, businesses will be expected to publish their "ESG balance sheet" to show their share of the whole economy's costs to our future. Then those businesses as well as investors, regulators, governments and civil society stakeholders will all be able to make choices with predictable consequences.   So, the "BIG IDEA" is that we can trust people to make the right choices if they're given the information on which to base them.

The proposal is more fully described online

What actions do you propose?

See also the full UN proposal, mentioned above and linked below (2)

The main implementation would begin with finding some group of scientists, businesses, investors, regulators or civil society stakeholders to simply ask if it is now actually both necessary and possible, to develop an cost accounting that is considerably more truthful and so much more effective in guiding our choices.   That's what we need to base financial decisions on the need to reverse the economic harms being caused by our present model of making economic choices.   

At present the professional communities involved contain many individuals who have reached that conclusion, but they still seem to find it unreasonable to think of actually proposing a complete reorganization of how we account for environmental impacts, just to make it complete and inclusive.

Who will take these actions?

As far as this particular proposal, is largely up to the readers of this proposal.  

It might only take a small critical mass of people to give it the public face it needs to begin a discussion of what it would be like to take full responsibility for what we're doing on earth.   

I've presented it to a large number of key actors, business and investment groups, civil society activist groups, the UN and its NGO major groups.  It was written for the UN's SDG negotiation process, but no discussion resulted.   

It needs people to look carefully enough to see it really is built around genuine accounting necessities for our society's survival on earth, required to give people the information they need to make good choices for themselves.

Where will these actions be taken?

Globally, starting with the initiating groups that form, then engaging the scientific and communications professions, governments and the general business and public communities.

How will these actions have a high impact in addressing climate change?

The two main ways it would change the course of events is to first show people how extraordinarily unprofitable it is not to respond to climate change and our present multiple other ways of ever faster depleting and disrupting the earth.  Those unaccounted for costs are rapidly sapping the resources we need to respond to any of the larger impacts, like climate change.   

Doing the full accounting will make it abundantly clear that if we keep going as we are, we won't have the resources to recover from the converging societal, economic and environmental crises we face, following from our economic model which assume no one ever need to account for or take responsibility for the costs of ever faster economic expansion.

What are other key benefits?

There's a long list, of course.  The reopening of our hopes for the future, and the natural restoration of equitable societies, are probably what most people would see as the most meaningful outcomes, though those are really "side effects" that would be expected if people no longer made so many economic choices based on extreme misinformation.

It would also give people a transformational clarity about how money is connected to the real world, just seeing it in bold display, in every business annual report.  That will change "the meaning of money".  It won’t be just a status symbol and means to selfish ends... but become 1) a universal unit of credit, for whatever the collective productivity of the world can do for you, combined with 2) a universal unit of responsibility for what you do with it.

What are the proposal’s costs?

It's a proposal for a revolution in accounting methods, so not really the kind of proposal to have a clear estimate of costs (as much as that's ironic for a cost accounting proposal, of course).   The costs of having it be discovered can't be reasonably estimated.  It has already cost nominally $100,000 in personal expenses, as being the main product of my two years of work at the UN,… chasing countless dead ends... 

It might easily never be looked at seriously, as these things go, however much is spent on promoting it.  It asks people to consider a new way of thinking about what money measures.  They may not want to.

Time line

Once a scientific community of interest develops, and there is at least one major governmental sponsor,  a research proposal could be written and circulated in six months as discussion spreads, and publishing the initial accounting standards for the most basic model might take another six months, a "road test" version.   By then sponsors would arrange to support an institute to help coordinate communication between the numerous independent governments and stakeholder groups.

Related proposals

It would probably impact all of them, greatly changing their performance values, as the Climate CoLab models are based on the out-of-date impact accounting principles this proposal is for correcting.


Maybe the easiest place to start for understanding the new scientific principle involved is:

·         Henshaw, J. (2014) Easy Intro, “scope 4″ use & interpretationReading Nature's Signals. 


More technical references, including the paper mentioned above as #1 and the "World SDG" UN proposal as #2 are: 

1.    Henshaw, King &  Zarnikau 2011 Systems Energy Assessment. Sustainability (online journal),

2.    Henshaw, J. (2014) A World SDG – global accounting of responsibilities for economic impacts, [invited civil society proposal] UN OWG and UN NGO Major Groups, Reading Nature’s Signals. online - 

3.    Henshaw, J. (2014 ) ‘Big Data’ and the right to human understanding, [Invited civil society outreach] UN Independent Expert Advisory Group (IEAG) on the Data Revolution. online -

4.    Henshaw, J.  (2014) Easy Intro, “scope 4″ use & interpretationand… Why all the tiers??  - comments as Technical Working Group member for UNEP FI / WRI Financial Sector Guidance on CO2 Accounting and Risks, Reading Nature’s Signals. online - 

5.    Henshaw, J. (2014) A Whole Systems view – Piketty’s “r > g”. Reading Nature’s Signals. Online -