Doughnut Economy

'Markten zijn inefficiënt en groei is niet alles zaligmakend: tijd voor een nieuw economisch model.'

Dat is de inleiding van Tegenlicht op hun aflevering over de 'Doughnut Economy'. De donut wordt door economoom Kate Raworth gebruik als metafoor voor haar gedachtegoed: Onze economische activiteiten zouden niet uit de bocht moeten vliegen, maar groeien binnen grenzen, in een ideale cirkel.

Dat is precies waar wij als Outside Inc. voor staan. Outside Inc. was haar tijd vooruit, zo schreven wij hier in 2013 al een blog over, lees hier een aantal fragmenten uit ons artikel. Vind jij dit interessant? Kom een keer met ons een donut eten om te bespreken hoe jouw bedrijf kan bijdragen aan de Doughnut Economy.


The Doughnut Economy

Two weeks ago it was Amsterdam Urban Innovation Week and Kate Raworth spoke on a morning lecture series in Pakhuis de Zwijger called “Redefining Growth”. She talked about The Doughnut which she uses as a model to explain the situation in which we ideally practise economy.

A doughnut has two sides (see picture). The outer side of the doughnut in Raworth’s story depicts the outsides of the ecological systems. How far can we push these boundaries such that ecosystems do not move themselves into a tipping point of no return. Ecological systems can regulate themselves very well. They can adjust themselves when certain substances, like CO2 or phosphor, are present much more or much less than normal. But up to a certain point. When substances exceed a certain threshold, a system might top over into another equilibrium which could give rise to a situation which is so to say less desirable for humans to flourish.

Raworth refers to a study of Rockström et al. (2009b) who determined nine planetary boundaries: the ozone layer, biodiversity, fresh water, land, climate change, nitrogen and phosphorus cycle, chemical pollution, ocean acidification, and atmospheric aerosol loading. And to give an indication where we are now: we crossed the borders already heavily on the nitrogen and phosphorus cycle, on CO2 limits and on biodiversity loss.

But of course we have to use something. We are not made of thin air, within a few decades there will be 9 billion hungry people. We use substantial resources of our planet. This explains the inner boundary of the doughnut. The inner one tells us what our minimum need is for everyone to grow old in a more or less pleasant and prosperous way: to be healthy and happy, to have access to food, water, energy, and education. In between these two boundaries there is this safe space in which it has been good for 10.000 years (the holoscene). And this is the doughnut in which “an inclusive and sustainable economic development” can take place. Within this space we preferably divide and trade. Sometimes it is necessary to hold back and be less destructive, sometimes it is necessary to scale up certain practices to provide enough for the world population.

New Focus

In doing business in a new economy that can take place within the doughnut, not only does one need to think about new business models that keep you earning in a sustainable way, you need to adjust your focus. The ‘grow and compete model’ no longer fits in the doughnut shaped atmosphere. If the focus is only on the fact that you need to grow in order to make money and survive as a business, and everyone does this, then of course collectively limits will be exceeded. An economic system in which growth is necessary, does not fit in an environmental ecosystem which has barriers.

More communication to accelerate positive change

So first of all it seems crystal clear that more communication and regulation about what we use and what we waste is needed when resources are limited. The individual groups together that only grab what they can, to grow as big as they can, sooner or later will not have enough.  With improved communication a more circular economy can arise, in which what we use, will, in one way or another, be reused, and reused and reused again.

Opportunities within restrictions

Another thing that becomes perfectly clear is that businesses always need to have in mind these nine boundaries. Growth can be within goals of businesses but not without limit. To be able to stay within the doughnut we need to grow in some parts to reach global satisfaction, but in other parts the limits are already exceeded. So choose areas carefully. Choose the areas in which it is possible to do business and stay within the doughnut is Raworth’s message.