Business meets the Doughnut

By Kevin Boon


Kate Raworth, pioneer of doughnut economics, has a vision for prosperity in the 21st century whereby all people achieve the essentials of life (health, food, housing etc) within the nine so-called planetary boundaries (climate change, biodiversity loss, air pollution etc). The human requirements link to the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

Kate calls for business to “do the doughnut” and be beneficial to society and the planet rather than simply seeking to meet their fair share or even aiming for mission zero which prevents damage but does not provide benefit. Doing the doughnut requires being both distributive and regenerative by design. It means moving away from the degenerative linear model of take, make, use, lose and operating so as to benefit humankind and the natural world. Kate describes a regenerative economy as being one run on renewables, where waste can be re-used, which is modular and where personal ownership is replaced by the provision of services.

As opposed to centralised enterprises, the purpose of which is to capture as much value as possible for the owners, regenerative enterprises are needed which share value more equitably with those who create and use the produce or service. Examples of a regenerative approach include employee ownership, living wages, ethical purchasing, open design and fair tax commitments.  

How beneficial a business is to society and the planet depends on the design of the business itself. Companies need to move from a mindset of maximising the financial value which can be extracted to generative enterprises which consider how many benefits can be generated in the way the enterprise itself is designed. Kate talks about five areas within a business which are important for this – purpose, networks, governance, ownership and finance.