Alternative Economics

From Second Renaissance

File:/assets/Doughnut economics shwyyy.jpg The Doughnut of Social and Planetary Boundaries. Credit: DoughnutEconomics


Doughnut Economics

The “Doughnut” is a visual framework for sustainable development which combines the concept of planetary boundaries with the concept of social boundaries. The framework was developed by economist Kate Raworth.

The inner boundary sets out 12 social foundations for humanity identified as sustainable development goals. The outer ring is formed of nine planetary boundaries that Earth-system scientists have identified as being necessary for planetary stability.

The Wellbeing Economy

The wellbeing economy is a broad label for the diverse movement of ideas and actions striving towards the shared vision of an economy centered around wellbeing.

“The key idea is quality of life and flourishing for all people and sustainability for the planet.”

The Wellbeing Economy Alliance.

Central ideas and claims

Doughnut Economics

Kate Rawworth’s Doughnut Model brings the twin objectives of poverty eradication and environmental sustainability into one single framework. Social foundation forms the inner boundary of the doughnut, with the hole at the center of the model depicting the proportion of people that lack access to life’s essentials. The outer boundary of the doughnut depicts an environmental ceiling, beyond which are several dimensions of environmental degradation. The doughnut-shaped area between the two boundaries represents an environmentally safe and socially just space for humanity to thrive in, where inclusive and sustainable economic development can take place.

File:/assets/doughnut xgqrmo.jpg

The Doughnut Model as applied to the planet as a whole. Credit: DoughnutEconomics

The social foundations featured in the framework are inspired by the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals: food security; health; education; income and work; peace and justice; political voice; social equality; gender equality; housing; networks; energy; water. Deep inequalities of income, gender, and power mean that millions of people today are living below every dimension of the social foundation.

In 2009, the Stockholm Resilience Centre brought together 29 leading Earth-system scientists, who proposed a set of nine critical Earth-system processes with “tipping points” or gradients of increasing risk: climate change; ocean acidification; chemical pollution; nitrogen and phosphorus loading; freshwater withdrawals; land conversion; biodiversity loss; air pollution; ozone layer depletion. Crossing such thresholds could lead to irreversible and, in some cases, abrupt environmental change. The Stockholm Resilience Centre has found that at least three of the thresholds – climate change, biodiversity loss, and nitrogen use – have already been crossed.

The Wellbeing Economy

The economic system that dominates the world has lost the capacity to effectively organize and distribute resources and to care for the natural world. Progress is measured by GDP, aligning economic policy with the interests of the wealthy few. The larger goal of sustainable wellbeing for everyone is lost from sight.

The Wellbeing Economy Alliance (WEAll) is the leading global collaboration of organizations, alliances, movements, and individuals working together to transform the economic system into one that delivers social justice on a healthy planet. WEAll’s vision is that within a decade the project will have catalyzed economic systems change in multiple countries towards a Wellbeing Economy. They envisage that in this future:

  • policy is framed in terms of human and ecological wellbeing, not simply economic growth;
  • businesses provide dignified lives for their employees and exist to meet social needs and contribute to the regeneration of nature;
  • and the rules of the economy are shaped by collaboration between government, business, and civil society.

The Wellbeing Economy Alliance holds that “economics and business practices need to be reoriented to what an economy should actually deliver: an equitable distribution of wealth, health and wellbeing, while protecting the planet’s resources for future generations and other species.”Hough-Stewart, L. et al. What is a Wellbeing Economy. Wellbeing Economy Alliance, 2019.


The Doughnut framework has been used to map localized socio-environmental performance in Erhai lake-catchment (China), Scotland, Wales, South Africa, Netherlands, and more. A 2018 study compared over 150 nations using the doughnut model.O’Neill, D. et al. A good life for all within planetary boundaries. Nature Sustainability. 1 (2): 88–95, 2018.

The Wellbeing Economy Governments partnership (WEGo) is a collaboration of governments promoting the sharing of expertise and transferable policy practices. The aims are to deepen their understanding and advance their shared ambition of building wellbeing economies. WEGo currently comprises Scotland, New Zealand, Iceland, Wales and Finland: the Finnish Government is implementing an economy of wellbeing; Iceland has Indicators for Wellbeing which guide government decision making; New Zealand’s Wellbeing Budget and Living Standards Framework are rooted in wellbeing indicators; wellbeing in central in Scotland’s National Performance Framework; and Wales has put the importance of wellbeing into law with its Wellbeing of Future Generations Act.

Key Actors and Bodies

  • Kate Raworth: Kate Raworth is a University of Oxford economist. She developed the doughnut economics framework in her 2012 Oxfam paper “A Safe and Just Space for Humanity” and elaborated upon it in her 2017 book Doughnut Economics: Seven Ways to Think Like a 21st-Century Economist.
  • The Wellbeing Economy Alliance (WEAll)

Key Texts


Further Reading

  • Anielski, M. An Economy of Well-Being: Common-sense tools for building genuine wealth and happiness. New Society Publishers, 2018
  • Fioramonti, L. Well Being Economy: Success in a World Without Growth. Pan Macmillan South Africa, 2017