Applying Doughnut Economics to businesses

Exploring how businesses and community organisations can support the economy of the future.

Bristol Green Capital Partnership is a network with over 1,000 member organisations working towards a vision of a net zero, socially just Bristol where all our communities and nature thrive. We wanted to explore the Doughnut Economics model with our members because of the way it brings together various themes and environmental issues that can otherwise risk being siloed or possibly missed from organisations’ sustainability efforts. 

We worked with Rob Shorter and Erinch Sahan at the Doughnut Economics Action Lab and Martin Parker at the Bristol Inclusive Economy Institute to bring together people from across our network to look at how to apply Doughnut Economics to community groups and businesses in a bespoke workshop.

The workshop was aimed at those committed to transforming Bristol’s economy and ready to investigate ways businesses and communities in Bristol can evolve to help build the economy of the future.

Here are some of the things we learnt:


Consider who is missing

If you’re existing in the middle of the doughnut without your basic needs being met, the planetary boundaries look very far away. Rob and Erinch got participants thinking about what enabled us to be at the workshop, such as access to childcare, education, and work. This helped us think about who wasn’t in the room and why, and how we could involve more people in the conversation.


Everything is connected

Our choices impact, and are impacted  by, the rest of the world. Doughnut Economics offers four lenses through which to imagine bold actions businesses could take to meet the needs of all life within planetary boundaries, both on a global and local scale.

Erinch and Rob gave participants various prompt cards such as ‘enhance wellbeing’, ‘energy’, ‘food’ and ‘social equity’ and we were invited to make as many connections as we could. At an organisational level this could look like sharing your assets, having nature represented on the board, or supporting those in your supply chain through longer term contracts.


Ask where the money and power lies

We know we need to tackle climate change and societal inequalities, but something stops businesses from changing. Moving beyond ‘the bottom line’ to design a business' core purpose, networks, governance, ownership, and finance around a regenerative and distributive purpose will influence the business to take bold, innovative actions. To tease out some of those bold ideas, participants were invited to think about what we could do that might get us fired!

There are businesses that are bucking the norms of their industries and locking social and environmental value into their core purpose. From employee ownership to multi-stakeholder boards to profit sharing, there are lots of ways that organisations can ‘get into the doughnut’.


The idea that we could change the economy is in itself a bold idea

How can you help create a fertile environment for new ideas to flourish? How can your organisation move from a divisive, degenerative design to a distributive, regenerative one?


Next steps

Bristol Green Capital Partnership is all about collaboration, so it was fantastic to bring together individuals from across our network to create connections and share ideas on how to apply the Doughnut Economics model to Bristol’s businesses and community groups. As a result of the workshop, we are:

·       Investigating specific boundaries for Bristol so the city can play its part in ensuring global boundaries aren’t crossed. 

·       Looking at how to support the nighttime economy with their sustainability efforts.

·       Helping to demystify ‘the economy’ by growing the conversation amongst our network of over 1,000 members.

·       Continuing to celebrate and support small businesses and the local economy through our own purchases as well as our projects and activities.

·       Exploring what we can do internally to ensure our own organisation enables people, communities, and nature in Bristol to thrive.


Find out more

Keep up to date with our work, including how organisations in our network are ‘getting into the doughnut’ at and follow us on Twitter and LinkedIn.

If your organisation is based, or operates in Bristol, you can sign up to be a member of the Partnership for free, and be the first to hear about our events and opportunities.




    jane ball


    Looking for collaborators and offering my skills and experience to help people realise DE in the real world

    Alice Peperell

    Bristol, England, United Kingdom

    Eager to learn, connect and shape a DE-focused future benefiting people and planet

    Mark Fonseca Rendeiro

    Haarlem, Noord-Holland, The Netherlands

    Trying to do my part (and a bit more) to make a world where all people can live a quality life within the means of the planet.


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