How to Do Business with Doughnuts

For any business that is searching for a 21st century compass, try this idea on for size. Let’s call it a ‘Doughnut‘. Its worldwide goal is to ensure that no-one is left in the central hole, falling short on life’s essentials, while simultaneously ensuring that human activity doesn’t overshoot the outer crust by putting too much pressure on Earth’s life-supporting systems. In other words, the aim is to meet the needs of all within the means of the planet.

It’s an ambitious goal for our times because, as the red wedges show, we are currently transgressing both the Doughnut’s social and planetary boundaries: billions of people fall short on life’s essentials while we have already overshot at least four planetary boundaries. Moving into the Doughnut’s safe and just space is the challenge of our century.

Over the past six years I have introduced this Doughnut diagram to a wide range of companies – from social enterprise startups to brand name multinationals – asking them what they plan to do in response to it. And I’ve been fascinated by the very diverse reactions it elicits.

I call the five main responses set out below The Corporate To-Do List because it reveals the vast range of things that companies are ready and willing to do.

1. Do nothing

‘Yes, the state of the world is unfortunate, but the business of business is business, and since everything that we are doing is nearly legal, we’ll carry on until price or regulation forces us to change.’ This first response is of course the oldest but it has long passed its expiry date.

2. Do what pays

‘OK, we’ll cut our carbon emissions if it cuts costs, and we’ll get green certification if it boosts sales.’ This is a first step, yes, but its approach is far too incremental for the speed and scale of change needed.

3. Do your fair share

‘We commit to matching national or science-based targets for cutting greenhouse gas emissions.’ Getting more serious now, but as anyone knows when left holding the restaurant bill after friends have chipped in for a big meal out, what we think is our ‘fair share’ rarely adds up to what’s actually needed.

4. Do Mission Zero

‘We aim for net-zero carbon emissions and zero deforestation in our supply chains.’ Now that’s transformative. But why settle for being 100% less bad when you can break through the ceiling of imagination and start to do good?

5. Be generative

‘The very way we do business sequesters carbon, cleans the air, pays living wages, and builds community – we’re here to make good things happen for society and for the living world.’ This, of course, is just the kind of enterprise that can help bring humanity into the Doughnut.

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Article by Kate Raworth | World Economic Forum | Image: Pixabay | Copyright © 2018 World Economic Forum All Rights Reserved.


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