Mathis is co-creator of the Ecological Footprint and President of Global Footprint Network (www.footprintnetwork.org), an international sustainability think-tank. This international think-tank focuses on bringing about a sustainable human economy in which all can live well within the means of one planet. It proposes the Ecological Footprint, which measures how much nature we use, how much nature we have, as a tool for bringing ecological limits to the center of decision-making everywhere. In 2012 and in 2013, Global Footprint Network was named one of the World’s 100 Top NGOs by The Global Journal.
Mathis has worked on sustainability with governments, corporations and international NGOs on six continents and has lectured at more than a hundred universities. He previously served as the director of the Sustainability Program at Redefining Progress in Oakland, California, and ran the Centro de Estudios para la Sustentabilidad at Anáhuac University in Xalapa, Mexico. Mathis has authored or contributed to over 50 peer-reviewed papers, numerous articles and reports and various books on sustainability that focus on the question of embracing limits and developing metrics for sustainability, including Our Ecological Footprint: Reducing Human Impact on the Earth; Sharing Nature’s Interest; Der Ecological Footprint: Die Welt neu vermessen, and WWF International’s Living Planet Report.
After earning a degree in mechanical engineering from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, he completed his Ph.D. in community and regional planning at The University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada. There, as his doctoral dissertation with Professor William Rees, he created the Ecological Footprint concept. Since 2011, he is also the Frank H. T. Rhodes Class of 1956 Visiting Professor at Cornell University.
Mathis’ awards include the 2015 IAIA Global Environment Award, being a 2014 ISSP Sustainability Hall of Fame Inductee, the 2013 Prix Nature Swisscanto, the 2012 Blue Planet Prize of Japan, the 2012 Binding-Prize for Nature Conservation, the 2012 Kenneth E. Boulding Memorial Award of the International Society for Ecological Economics, the 2011 Zayed International Prize for the Environment (jointly awarded by UNEP), an honorary doctorate from the University of Berne in 2007, a 2007 Skoll Award for Social Entrepreneurship, a 2006 WWF Award for Conservation Merit and the 2005 Herman Daly Award of the U.S. Society for Ecological Economics. He was also selected as number 19 of the en(rich) list identifying the 100 top inspirational individuals whose contributions enrich paths to sustainable futures (www.enrichlist.org). John Elkington identified Mathis in 2012 among the “Zeronaut 50” Roll of Honor, i.e., leading pioneers who are driving the world’s most significant problems to zero.