The Sustainable Economy Is a Donut!
The objective number 12 of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) – proposed by the Open Working Group of the United Nations General Assembly (OWG) – aims to ensure sustainable patterns of consumption and production. Why is this an indispensable requirement for sustainable development? Because it is estimated that the world population will reach 9.6 billion by 2050 , with this figure we would need the natural resources of three planets to cope with the needs of consumption at the global level.
With SDG 12, the United Nations aspires to change the current production and consumption model to achieve efficient management of natural resources. In promoting an efficient, responsible and sustainable approach to natural resources, this SDG is aimed at both companies (production processes), people (consumption and practices such as sustainable tourism), and Governments (at the regulatory level, e.g., disincentive of the use of fossil fuels).
During the Aurelio Peccei Lecture 2017 (held in September in Rome) Kate Raworth, a famous researcher at the Environmental Change Institute of the University of Oxford, presented her book titled "Doughnut Economics: Seven Ways to Think Like a 21st-Century Economist". You can watch the video of the lecture here.
The 'donut' that speaks the Raworth it is not a sweeter way of considering economic paradigms, but it is a vision to disrupt them definitively. The purpose of traditional economic theory is the growth of GDP over time and the theory does not define, and therefore does not worry, limits of action to achieve this goal. For this reason, Raworth says that "we need a new way of representing the economy." And she did it through the donut.
In this innovative image, the margins of equitable and sustainable growth are represented. In fact, the model considers two borders:
The internal boundary (the social dimension): a stable society should guarantee to all people the availability of basic resources (food, water, health care and energy) in such a way that human rights are fully respected. The social dimension forms an internal boundary, below which the conditions for human deprivation are developed.
The external boundary (the environmental limits): the use of natural resources by humans should not stress the natural processes of the Earth (causing, for example, climate change and loss of biodiversity). The environmental dimension forms an external boundary, exceeding which the conditions of environmental degradation are achieved.
According to the authoress, and Goal 12 too, this new donut economy must be regenerative and redistributive. Through the model that has been proposed, therefore, the economy would be able to regenerate the resources that it takes away from the natural capital and redistribute the benefits for the entire population.
Living in the confines of the donut is complex. Raworth suggest that well-designed policies can simultaneously promote poverty eradication and environmental sustainability. There are 5 keys factor to work on to live in the safe and just space for humanity:
1. Population: to "guarantee a life without deprivation," above the social limits
2. Distribution: a more equitable and efficient use of global resources is needed to fit within the confines of the donut
3. Aspiration: the greater our aspiration towards material needs, the greater will be our pressure on planet Earth
4. Urbanization: the choice of technologies in the construction, transport and energy sectors will play a decisive role in determining the amount of CO2 emitted
5. Governance: strong local, national and global governance is needed to tackle the most pressing challenges in a more systematic way and with a long-term vision
In this prospective, living inside the donut requires the active participation of citizen, business and institution. The new vision of economy, clear and simply, explain the importance of intercorrelation between economic, social and not least environmental well-being. Dimensions of well-being that cannot be achieved separately. Being inside the donut must be a duty!
 Department of Economic and Social Affairs, population Division, World population Prospects: The 2012 revision.
Vol. I (ST/ESA/SER. A/336) and II (ST/ESA/SER. A/345) (New York, United nations Publications, 2013)
Author: Rosamartina Schena / PhD Student at LUM Jean Monnet University