Ecological footprint of the richest: France country profile


Ecological impact of the richest (Dario Kenner, Why Green Economy)This country profile is part of the research on the inequality of overconsumption which attempts to quantify the full ecological footprint of the richest people in different countries around the world. Read a summary of the working paper published by the Global Sustainability Institute, Anglia Ruskin University (read the full working paper).

As there is no data or research available on the ecological footprint of the richest the focus here is on High Net Worth Individuals in the countries where they are concentrated: the United States, Japan, China, United Kingdom and France.

Identifying the richest people in France

Total population: 62 million in 2015 (Source: CIA World Factbook, July 2015 estimate)

This research uses the number of High Net Worth Individuals to identify the richest people in France. HNWI’s are defined as “having a minimum of US$1 million in investable wealth, excluding primary residence, collectibles, consumables, and consumer durables”. In 2014 there were 494,000 HNWI’s in France (Source: Capgemini and RBC Wealth Management)

Inequality indicators

Income inequality: Share of income captured by the richest 1% in 2012 was 8.9% (Source: The World Top Incomes Database)

Wealth inequality: Share of wealth captured by the richest 1% in 2010 was 17.9% (Source: OECD Wealth Distribution Database)

Ecological footprint indicators

(Credit:Global Footprint Network)

(Credit:Global Footprint Network)

This research uses the ecological footprint as a reference point to discuss the overconsumption by the richest people. The Global Footprint Network methodology explains that the “ecological footprint of a person is calculated by considering all of the biological materials consumed and all of the carbon dioxide emissions generated by that person in a given year.” This includes a person’s consumption of products from fisheries, cropland, grazing land, forests (wood and capture of carbon dioxide), and also use of urban land (Source: Global Footprint Network).

Lack of data on the richest people

There is currently no data available to accurately quantify the different components of the ecological footprint of the richest people in France e.g. their total carbon footprint. The closest information available relates to the richest 10% and is based on household expenditure surveys (see methodology for discussion of strengths and weakness of using this metric).

There is a focus on fuels for private transport and meat as two key indicators as well as looking at total expenditure. Private transport and food have been identified as the main sources of individuals’ environmental impact in developed countries (Peattie and Peattie, 2009). These two indicators represent examples of direct (fuel used in private vehicles) and indirect (meat) greenhouse gas emissions. It is important to cover both types of indicator because there are numerous studies that show the majority of emissions in developed countries are often indirect, for example from food, consumer electronics, clothing and recreation (Capstick et al., 2015; Büchs and Schnepf, 2013; Druckman and Jackson, 2008).

France: Annual household expenditure in 2011 Total all deciles Richest 10% Poorest 10%

Total expenditure




(17% of total)


(6% of total)

Fuel for private transport 

(Fuel, lubricants, antifreeze)



(13% of total)


(6% of total)

Meat consumption

(Beef, pork, poultry, meat products)



(13% of total)


(6% of total)

Source: Household expenditure survey 2011, National Institute of Statistics and Economic Studies (INSEE) (2014)

Complementary data

Research estimates that in France “the richest 10% of the population emits around three times more direct CO2 than the poorest 10%” and that the richest in France emit the equivalent amount as the poorest groups in the US (Chancel, 2014).


Submit data on the ecological footprint of the richest people in France

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