Doughnut Economics calls on businesses to demonstrate how they are going to transform so that they will belong in a future that is regenerative and distributive. The answer is a journey into the deep design of business itself – explored through the Purpose, Networks, Governance, Ownership, and Finance of any business. Regenerative and distributive strategies, practices and ideas can be unlocked through such changes in business design, thereby helping to bring humanity into the Doughnut.
To help guide this journey, we have now launched DEAL's Doughnut Design for Business tool. You can also read more about the concepts and ideas in the tool in our What Doughnut Economics means for business paper.
To protect the integrity of Doughnut Economics and ensure its potential remains truly transformative, we set out below our policy on how businesses can engage with Doughnut Economics.
Across all our work at Doughnut Economics Action Lab we aim to balance openness with protecting the integrity of the concept of Doughnut Economics. This is particularly important in the field of business where the concept is most at risk of getting greenwashed or co-opted, and if that were to happen, Doughnut Economics would be devalued and discredited for all changemakers. To open this area of work in a transformative manner, DEAL has now created the Doughnut Design for Business tool and an accompanying policy for how businesses can engage with Doughnut Economics.
The seven principles listed below set out DEAL’s policy for businesses (including consultants in their work with business clients) and for anyone engaging with the topic of business and Doughnut Economics. This means that any business or organisation wanting to introduce and apply Doughnut Economics to businesses must do so by focusing on the deep design of business, as outlined in the Doughnut Design for Business tool.
All trainings, workshops, events and stories relating to business and Doughnut Economics need to be based on this tool. Businesses that use this tool to identify ways their deep design can evolve are able to communicate publicly about their analysis and future plans in connection to Doughnut Economics in accordance with the guidance set out below. We ask that businesses refrain from associating with Doughnut Economics in any other way.
The following principles apply to any business or enterprise, which we define as organisations that derive the majority of their revenue from trading activities (ie; the sale of products and services). This includes social enterprises, cooperatives, small enterprises, family companies, and multinational corporations, among other forms of business. This also applies to advisors and consultants in their work with business clients, for whom DEAL's Policy for Consultancies and Organisations also applies.
(Last Updated: November, 2022)
When applied to businesses, Doughnut Economics focuses on the deep design of business. The design of business is about its purpose and networks, how it is governed and owned and the nature of its relationship with finance. The essence of the journey a business goes through in applying Doughnut Economics is to first understand the impacts it has on the dimensions of the Doughnut, then identify the most ambitious and bold ideas that would create maximum benefits before exploring how its design enables and holds back such ideas. The journey ends with ideas for redesigning business in order to enable the most transformative regenerative and distributive ideas. This journey entails a deep reflection into the organisational design of the business itself and into the systemic changes needed if it is to become regenerative and distributive by design (as outlined in the Doughnut Design for Business tool).
The Doughnut Economics approach to downscaling ‘fair shares’ of global resource use takes human rights and equity as a starting point. As a result, Doughnut Economics is not aligned with current approaches that seek to allocate global resource budgets to businesses on the basis of their output, workforce or value-added. These ‘grandfathering’ approaches grant preferential treatment to incumbent large-scale operations, to the detriment of smaller and emerging enterprises that may embody a far more regenerative and distributive design. There are many existing frameworks that invite businesses to engage with such questions of allocation of global resources, and those interested in using them should refrain from calling the analysis a ‘company Doughnut’ or associating the results with Doughnut Economics. For more information on DEAL’s policy of ‘No Company Doughnuts’, see the section below.
Any business that has been inspired by Doughnut Economics to make or explore substantive changes to its deep design (including by using the Doughnut Design for Business tool) is welcome to communicate publicly about this. We ask that any communication is limited to Doughnut Economics serving as inspiration for changes in its deep design, through addressing its Purpose, Networks, Governance, Ownership, and Finance. The concepts and images of Doughnut Economics cannot be used for any other public communication by businesses. We also ask that there are no public facing claims or communication that suggests any business is within the Doughnut, a Doughnut Business, aligned with Doughnut Economics, endorsed by DEAL, or similar. The above also applies to consultants in their work with business clients.
We ask that all trainings, workshops or events on the application of Doughnut Economics to businesses (including by consultants in their work with business clients) use DEAL’s Doughnut Design for Business tool, retaining the integrity and ambitious goals of the concepts and the tool.
We ask that no new tools are created on the topic of Doughnut Economics and business. However, we do welcome feedback, additional guidance and context-specific adaptations to DEAL’s Doughnut Design for Business tool that are tailored for companies in specific contexts or industries. We ask that such adaptations be submitted to the DEAL team before they are published or publicly shared.
Consultancies or other organisations engaging with DEAL’s Doughnut Design for Business tool as part of their professional advisory services, are required to register as an ‘Organisation in Action’ on DEAL’s platform and follow DEAL's Policy for Consultancies and Organisations. This includes sharing back their experience and learning with the rest of the DEAL community. In this context, that means to contribute with stories in the platform that ‘share back’ insights covering key aspects of the workshop, as well as suhttps://doughnuteconomics.org/tools/191ggested ways in which the tool can improve. If you are a not-for-profit organisation using the Doughnut Design for Business tool with businesses, we also ask that you register on DEAL’s platform as an ‘Organisation in Action’ and follow DEAL's Policy for Consultancies and Organisations. This includes sharing back your experience and insights from using the tool with the rest of the DEAL community too, in the spirit of reciprocity and peer-to-peer learning. If you’re using this for ‘internal reflection’ as a business, it is optional to share back your insights. If you choose to, please connect with us through the DEAL contact form. Note also the dos and don’ts at the start of this tool.
DEAL would like to select and share some compelling case studies that demonstrate how the most transformative regenerative and distributive ideas can be unlocked through business design and redesign. We invite businesses to share stories with us that focus on the following:
To submit a case study, please share it through the DEAL contact form, choosing the category 'Tools and Stories' and theme ‘Business and Enterprise’. To retain the integrity and ambition of Doughnut Economics, DEAL itself will post these on the platform, and we ask that case study stories of individual businesses are not posted directly to the DEAL platform.
The Doughnut Design for Business tool sets out how businesses can engage with Doughnut Economics.
Built for use by workshop facilitators, it guides businesses through a practical and action-oriented workshop to generate the business design changes appropriate for their context. It aims to catalyse innovations in the deep design of any business that can enable them to pursue an ambitious agenda of transformation and to become regenerative and distributive in their strategies, operations, and impacts, and so helping to bring humanity into the Doughnut.
See the Doughnut Design for Business tool page to view the tool and accompanying paper.
Read our paper on what Doughnut Economics means for business. It provides background and detail on the core concepts covered in the Doughnut Design for Business tool. The paper was co-authored by DEAL and Centre for Economic Transformation.
For these reasons, we ask that the concepts of Doughnut Economics are not used in initiatives that seek to allocate global resource shares to businesses. There are many existing frameworks that invite businesses to engage with questions of allocation of global resources, and those interested in using them should refrain from calling the analysis a ‘company Doughnut’ or associating the results with Doughnut Economics. We encourage researchers and practitioners to get in touch with DEAL if they believe they are developing an approach to business resource allocation that does have an equity-based starting point rooted in human rights. If any other researchers or analysts wish to apply Doughnut Economics to businesses in a different way to the Doughnut Design for Business tool, we ask that they get in touch with DEAL before proceeding.
A growing number of initiatives are seeking to measure and allocate to businesses a ‘fair share’ of global resource budgets (such as CO2) that respect planetary boundaries. Existing approaches to allocating such shares of resource use to businesses are often based on how large the company is (e.g. in terms of its current output, value-added, or work-force). In practice this ‘grandfathering’ approach grants preferential treatment to incumbent large-scale operations, to the detriment of smaller and emerging enterprises that may embody a far more regenerative and distributive design.
More fundamentally, this methodology is inconsistent with DEAL’s equity-based approach to downscaling the Doughnut to places, which starts by recognising that the most ethically legitimate way to distribute fair access to use of Earth’s common resources within planetary boundaries is on the basis of human rights. This approach leads to an allocation of resource use on a per capita basis, while taking historic resource use and developmental needs into account, and as far as we are aware, there is currently no methodology that credibly and traceably translates such an approach into an implied allocation for any individual company.
The Doughnut has primarily been used as a place-based tool, applying to human settlements like cities and nations, where it has been downscaled as an indicator framework on a per-capita basis. Recently, there has been particular interest in exploring applying the Doughnut to specific sectors like construction, fashion, food and health.
DEAL is collaborating with a small number of organisations to explore if and how this could work, by exploring methodologies at a sectoral level that are rooted in the principles of equity and human rights. These pilots will help experiment with the way in which the Doughnut can apply to sectors, with the goal of assisting them to identify the regenerative and distributive transformation needed across their sector.
We are in a period of exploring and learning how to develop an approach for applying Doughnut Economics to entire sectors that is aligned with the principles and transformative potential of Doughnut Economics.
We ask everyone intending to work in this space to first contact us so that we can continue to learn together.
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