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Doughnut Economics: How to design your business sustainably

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Erinch Sahan is on a path to assisting designers and stakeholders to be bold and brave in their transformation to become sustainable businesses. As the Business & Enterprise Lead of Doughnut Economics Action Lab (DEAL), he's joined the lineup for this year's From Business to Buttons conference to spread the word and wisdom of how to get there.

The Doughnut Economics

If you’re unfamiliar with Doughnut economics, here’s a fast-track explanation: Doughnut Economics is a compass for human prosperity in the 21st century. It highlights the transformations needed if we are to meet the needs of all people within the means of the living planet. 

– The Doughnut consists of two concentric rings: a social foundation to ensure that no one is left falling short on life’s essentials, and an ecological ceiling, to ensure that humanity does not collectively overshoot the planetary boundaries that protect Earth's life-supporting systems. Between these two sets of boundaries lies a doughnut-shaped space that is both ecologically safe and socially just: a space in which humanity can thrive, explains Erinch Sahan, Business & Enterprise Lead – Doughnut Economics Action Lab (DEAL)

How to transform your businesses

Erinch strongly believes that the business world will need to embrace bold and ambitious solutions that are both regenerative and distributive to be running sustainably.

– To make this possible, a transformation in the deep design of business will be needed: in its purpose and networks, how it is governed and owned and the nature of its relationship with finance. To explore ideas and models for achieving the needed transformations in business, it will need to overcome the mindsets and systems of the 20th century that still dominate the business world. The two major obstacles are the reluctance to embrace the possibilities of designing businesses differently and engaging with the world of finance in a way that can enable this.

So, how should we as designers and stakeholders go our ways to manage these big and bold – but necessary – changes? The Doughnut Design for Business tool exists to support anyone hoping to drive a transformation in businesses. It sets out how businesses can engage with Doughnut Economics. Built for use by workshop facilitators, it guides businesses through an action-oriented workshop that is practical but ambitious and aimed at catalysing innovations in their deep design.

– By focusing on the deep design of the business, the workshop invites companies to engage in a transformative agenda of becoming regenerative and distributive in their strategies, operations, and impacts so that they help to bring humanity into the Doughnut. There are also some policies and guidelines for its use to ensure we protect the integrity of the concepts, says Erinch.

Speaker at the FBTB Design Conference

Before Erinch found his way to The Doughnut, he had worked his way as a market strategy manager, established a furniture business and worked for Australia's aid programme. What inspired him to become a part of Doughnut economics?

– First and foremost, the author of Doughnut Economics, Kate Raworth. Secondly, Marjorie Kelly, whose writings and broader work inspired how Doughnut Economics relates to the business world. And thirdly, the social entrepreneurs I met around the world over the past 15 years have consistently demonstrated that a different business world is possible.

Erinch Sahan is a part of the lineup for the From Business to Buttons conference 2023, where he’ll be giving the virtual talk “When business meets the Doughnut”.

– I hope the audience leaves the talk feeling courageous and ready to identify the transformative ideas the world needs and the changes in business design that will be needed to unlock these.

Visit From Business to Buttons here.