Doughnut economics, anyone?

24 February 2014

If you’re looking for a new framework for economic development that draws together the environment and social development, look no further than the doughnut. Read on to find out five things we’ve learnt about doughnut economics.

The brainchild of Kate Raworth from the University of Oxford’s Environmental Change Institute and formerly Oxfam, doughnut economics is getting traction around the world. We love its simplicity and the way it brings together the environment, social and economic development, so you can see the planet and its processes as a whole.

Doughnut economics chart

Here are five things we’ve learnt about doughnut economics. 

1. There are 9 planetary boundaries that create an environmental ceiling, beyond which lies unacceptable environmental degradation. These boundaries, defined by Rockström, include:

  • Climate change
  • Freshwater use
  • Nitrogen and phosphorus cycles
  • Ocean acidification
  • Chemical pollution
  • Atmospheric aerosol loading
  • Ozone depletion
  • Biodiversity loss
  • Land use change

2. Similarly, there is a social foundation below which there is unacceptable social deprivation. The 11 social boundaries are:

  • Health
  • Income
  • Food
  • Water
  • Education
  • Resilience
  • Voice
  • Jobs
  • Gender equality
  • Energy
  • Social equity

3. The space between the social foundation and environmental ceiling (the ‘doughnut’) is the safe and just space for humanity. If global economic development is socially inclusive and environmentally sustainable it would bring humanity into this space and allow it to thrive.

4. We’ve already surpassed the environmental ceiling in three areas: climate change, biodiversity loss, and nitrogen and phosphorus cycles. Moreover, we’re already below the social foundation in all areas that we can currently measure.

The good news is that we could get everyone out of this level of poverty without putting pressure on the planet, for example it would take just 3% of global food supply to end hunger.

5. Doughnut economics can be applied to business: can you place your product or supply chain into the doughnut and see where it sits? Which of the nine planetary boundaries is it adding pressure to, or helping reduce pressure on? Which of the eleven social boundaries does it affect?

Want to find out more? Watch Kate Raworth’s great 17 minute video explaining doughnut economics.

Pressed for time? Check out this 4 minute Oxfam video introducing it.