One Ring to Rule Them All - How Donut Economics can help us build a better future

One Ring to Rule Them All - How Donut Economics can help us build a better future

In 1804, planet Earth was home to an estimated 1 billion people. A little over a century later, in 1927, 2 billion. 95 years onward, on the 15th of November this year, it’s expected to welcome its 8 billionth human inhabitant.

Enough and more has been written about what we humans have done to the planet in this time – released carbon into the atmosphere, destroyed green spaces, pushed species into extinction, and triggered climatic catastrophes. Reckoning with the consequences of our actions, we’re now searching for solutions.


We’re the first generation to feel the effects of climate change and the last generation who can do something about it.

-Barack Obama


Though we need alternatives, finding one is easier said than done. The actions that have caused these environmental consequences have also made human existence significantly better than ever before in history. Today, we’re living longer, healthier lives than we have at any point in human history. We have lifted billions out of poverty over the last century. It’s naive, then, to suggest we forgo economic activity. After all, there are still plenty of people who lack the necessities needed for a decent life.

As one-sided as this, however, is the pursuit of economic growth for its own sake, regardless of its consequences for both the environment and human quality of life.

This conversation can go beyond binaries, though, as economist Kate Raworth has shown. We can meet everyone’s economic needs while respecting the limitations of the environment. This reconciliation, interestingly enough, takes the shape of a doughnut – perhaps the only doughnut that’ll be good for our health.

Doughnut economics, a theory she describes in a book by the same name, starts by identifying 12 necessities needed to afford each human a decent life. These include education, housing, food, water, healthcare, and others. They also form the inner circle of her doughnut,  anyone living inside this circle is deprived of at least one of these. A certain amount of natural resources must be spent to enable this.

The outer circle of the doughnut represents our planetary boundaries – the limits beyond which resource use degrades the environment. There are nine limits - like climate change, ocean acidification, and biodiversity loss, among others – that we need to guard against. The area between these two circles is the doughnut’s sweet spot. Here, all humans have the necessary inputs to thrive without compromising the safety of all the other species co-inhabiting our planet. This, she says, should be our new collective goal – working to create a planet that thrives, not growth for growth’s sake.


Currently, as a species, we’re in a paradoxical state where we violate both boundaries, achieving neither goal. Sea levels are rising, ocean acidification is underway, biodiversity is decreasing and the planet’s getting warmer. At the same time, as many as 828 million people worldwide (over 10% of the world’s population) were affected by hunger in 2021. 258 million children the world over were out of school and half of the world’s population lacked basic healthcare in 2017.


A doughnut economy, then, tries to work for all of earth. It recognises that infinite growth on a finite planet isn’t possible, but simultaneously that human needs should and must be met.  Perhaps most importantly, though, it isn’t just an idea restricted to a book – it’s finding a home in the real world! Ever since it gained popularity, multiple cities have started rebuilding themselves along its principles in collaboration with the Doughnut Economics Action Lab (DEAL), especially after the COVID-19 pandemic. The city of Amsterdam, for example, recognises that not all of its residents have access to affordable housing, placing them in the hole below the doughnut’s social foundations. Conventional construction techniques, however, have a large ecological footprint that’s likely to overshoot planetary boundaries. So instead, the city is incentivising the use of wood and recycled materials to create housing that achieves both environmental and social goals.

Above: Amsterdam is taking a lead in implementing Doughnut Economics-inspired policies. Source: 

Below: A number of cities across the globe are on the path to more sustainable futures, implementing the principles of Doughnut Economics. Source: Doughnut Economics Action Lab

These ideas are finding home in business models across the world, which emphasise the use of recycled material and biodegradability to ensure environmental sustainability while paying the workers who make them fair wages to guarantee they can lead lives of dignity. Brands like Xander, Clan Earth, The Santra Project and Patrah embody these principles, creating products that have a net-positive impact on the environment.

It’s important to remember - the most sustainable products are the ones that have already been made. So, if you want to be a part of the circular economy, visit Relove at Suspire, where you can buy or sell clothing and be part of a sustainable system.