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“Doughnut Economics” by Kate Raworth Review

Doughnut economics is a book by a modern economist and researcher, Kate Raworth, that presents a new view of how human society should function. The author suggests replacing the outdated circular flow of goods and money with a modern model, the Doughnut. It received the name from its visual illustration as a “ring” of safe and just space with basic human needs listed on the inside and environmental factors on the outside. Instead of focusing on financial growth and material benefits for society, it aims to achieve and maintain the balance between people’s well-being and planet resources. Raworth provides several practical steps of how this economics could be supported according to her views if most of society chooses to follow it. While the proposed model may seem utopian, it provokes readers to re-evaluate the accepted standards of the civilized world over the past centuries.

Book Analysis

The book is written for anyone interested in the dynamic side of economics. Raworth challenges the classic models taught at the universities and proposes replacing them with a sustainable way of improving the well-being of humankind. Her primary target audience includes the students who major in economics and will be shaping the future of the planet. However, Raworth realizes that potential leaders also require education and mentoring. Thus, she addresses the current business professors teaching at the universities and entrepreneurs who are flexible enough to replace the circular model with the Doughnut one. Finally, the language researcher uses is conceptual and somewhat simplified so that even people outside of economic education can understand and apply her instructions.

The author’s goals are ambitious; she proposes a complete re-evaluation of the current economic state. The Doughnut model shows the environmental factors, such as climate change and freshwater availability, the human well-being elements, including jobs and social health, and the safe and just space, created by their balance (Raworth, 2017, p. 34). Raworth (2017, p.22) also lists seven actions everyone should perform to achieve the new economic system. While the explanations and the need for change in human society seem logical, the overall tone of the book is overly optimistic. For example, the author suggests seeing the comprehensive picture as one of the recommendations but does not explain in detail how that is possible (Raworth, 2017, p. 22). The overview of the human situation regarding the resources and potential well-being requires analysis of much data by specialists, not merely a highly-motivated desire to help the planet.

Another suggestion is nurturing human nature by supporting people’s ability to be productive through bonding with each other. According to the author, an average member of society will strive toward the common good and clean nature as it would benefit their well-being (Raworth, 2017, p. 24). Unfortunately, not every person will think about contributing to the planet’s balance when they have enough food, clean water, and other essential resources. Most humans are likely to focus on creating and supporting personal wealth to prevent themselves from the risk of poverty in future. However, if the author’s main goal for this particular book was to raise awareness about the need for change and start the transformation process, she has achieved it.

Overall, the proposed model represents a delicate balance between the resources people need to maintain and further develop their civilization and the capacity of the planet to provide the required energy and materials. The thresholds are ecological ceiling and critical human deprivation, represented by two borders containing the Doughnut target zone between them (Raworth, 2017, p.12). In the twentieth century, people have been sacrificing ecological resources, including those needed for their health or for achieving the desired level of wealth. For example, driving a car often may be a convenient method for a person to travel to work quickly. However, the negative side effect of it would be air pollution. The influence of this single automobile may not be significant for Earth, but millions of gasoline vehicles have led to frequent smog in several parts of the world. The ability to reach the workplace is a part of the social foundation, while dangerous particles in the atmosphere are a sign of the critical planetary degradation. People can achieve a safe and just zone by monitoring the pollution from the cars, limiting personal vehicle use when possible, car-pooling, and eventually changing the fuel to an eco-friendlier version.

A similar scenario works for large businesses and corporations, but with more accent on the profit. In the last century, employees’ health was rarely a priority for companies and firms. Their immediate goal usually included financial benefit and potential for growth, although employees as well as the business owners use natural resources. The negative effects of industrial production were not obvious enough to be considered as a part of the mandatory business plan. Raworth (2017, p. 22) suggests shifting the focus from constant economic growth to maintaining a healthy balance for humans and their environment that could be sustained for many centuries. It is a long-term goal, but striving for it would also help future generations of humans avoid chronic health problems and concentrate on further development of civilization.

In my opinion, the Doughnut model, as Raworth presents it, is not feasible. Currently, the difference in the economic values of poor and wealthy people on the planet is too large. The proposal could become a reality only if most of the Earth’s population changed their personal life goals, which is hardly a priority for those who starve and experience severe weather conditions. Humans have to satisfy their basic necessities before considering the world’s balance.

I believe that the Doughnut model should be included in the University courses of first-world countries. The students can consider the alternative motivations that corporations might use when choosing the goals and operating methods. This could make the graduates’ social and business strategies more environmentally friendly in the future. In addition, the course may be offered to other majors as a general education class to encourage the conscious spending of the available resources by the people in the coming years.

Raworth’s theories presented in her book may have a scientific foundation but are written as simple conclusions in an attempt to make economics understandable for any reader. On one side, this removes the barrier between the researchers and the community, thus creating a diverse base for opinions and critique. On the other side, the audience may lack fundamental knowledge to understand the risks and drawbacks behind the proposed theory. Classic economists that support and teach the circular flow of goods and money might resist accepting the new model without further research and investigations. Overall, Doughnut economics would be the right choice for those interested in the current financial and social state of the global human society.

Sustainability Challenges

The company analyzed in this part of the paper packs and labels fruits and vegetables for the Irish retailers to be sold worldwide. The business owners consider using Doughnut economics’ guidelines to become more sustainable in the future. Currently, the primary material the firm’s management approved for containers is plastic; it is the main component for their punnets, wrappers, and trays. While these packages are relatively cheap and easy for the company to use, the chemicals in them may cause cardiovascular diseases, obesity, and cancer in those who consume the wrapped fruits and vegetables (Fox, 2019, para. 2). The first challenge for the firm is finding alternative materials for wrapping the products.

The ecologically safe packaging could include carton baskets, compressed grass boxes, or wooden crates. The perennial ryegrass, relatively common in Ireland, seems to be the cheapest and readily available alternative to the plastic and could be used to make grocery packages. The suggested approach is experimental, and such boxes are currently not mass-produced anywhere in the world. The process of drying the raw materials, shaping them as containers, and testing the durability and protection of the final package requires further research and analysis.

Another challenge that many businesses face today is COVID-19, a pandemic that has severely affected companies in all spheres. The Doughnut economics model suggests that a lack of food and significant health problems would push humans to the critical deprivation border (Raworth, 2017, p.12). The analyzed fruits and vegetables packaging firm had to limit the number of employees at the production sites and provide the protection gear for them. It is the company management’s responsibility to pay the salary to the workers during the pandemic to buy groceries even if their work hours are limited. The difficulty of this strategy is additional financial spending, while the profits decrease due to the overall world economic crisis. The management had to use the reserved funds on salaries and protection gear for the workers.

Reference List

Fox, E. (2019) Food packaging is full of toxic chemicals – here’s how it could affect your health. Web.

Raworth, K. (2017) Doughnut economics: seven ways to think like a 21st-century economist. London: Penguin Random House.


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