Webinar book club: Doughnut Economics

24th September 2018

P32 doughnut economics



Richard Clarke reviews IEMA’s August webinar book group session, which covered Kate Raworth’s Doughnut Economics.

The second of IEMA’s webinar book group sessions took place in August, discussing Kate Raworth’s Doughnut Economics. It’s certainly a book that has been making waves, having been nominated for business awards and adopted by sustainability professionals; it even forms part of the IEMA sustainability syllabus.

The session was ably led by Marek Bidwell, and the comments and discussion were both engaging and thought provoking. Marek started by providing a summary of the book, covering the concept of the doughnut model and the seven key elements of Raworth’s argument; having such an introduction was useful to jog attendees’ memories of the book’s key points.

Marek followed this with a slide containing a series of questions and topics for prompting discussion and debate. The session was structured in a very free-form manner – not like an exam, where you have to answer the questions set! Marek’s approach is that whatever people have to say is valid, which is great for opening up debate.

Back at IEMA HQ, Spencer Clubb managed incoming questions and comments and patched in callers wishing to speak. The webinar software is easy to use, and viewers were able to contribute both verbally and in writing.

Never shy in coming forward, I offered myself up to speak first, offering my general views on the book. Marek’s approach is very open, and once I’d given my initial thoughts, his gentle questioning explored my thoughts a little more deeply – all very easy, and not at all scary! While Doughnut Economics is primarily concerned with economics, it also examines many other factors that resonated with attendees, including population, regenerative circular economy models, natural capital and ecosystem services and the ever-present issue of whether green growth is possible. The session featured a handful of opinion polls on some of these key themes, gauging attendees’ opinions. At least one contained a real surprise, when significant support was shown for the view that just restructuring the economy is not enough and real cuts in consumption will be necessary in years to come.

An interesting area of debate centred around whether the doughnut model can be used in a professional capacity, such as in training courses and leadership meetings, or to support context and scope requirements in ISO 14001. The model is perhaps most powerful at representing the planetary boundaries model in a clear form. Of particular interest was whether the model could allow a better dialogue with employees who aren’t sustainability professionals, to help them to make that connection between an organisation’s commitment to environmental management and wider global concerns.

Ultimately, the book club works well as a prompt for many to read a book they might not normally consider, and gives participants a chance to explore new and interesting ideas in a comfortable and sociable way. I’d encourage anyone who hasn’t yet given the book group a try to look out for the next session, and think about joining in the debate. It’s a different and engaging way to work on your CPD.

Richard Clarke is senior EHS consultant at Cedrec Information Systems.


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