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Towards a Sustainable Economy: State of the Doughnut

Research overview:

The complexity of achieving sustainable development requires a new approach to decision-making, one that recognises the interconnections between social and environmental factors, accounting for people’s needs as well as the natural environment upon which they depend. The challenges of present-day issues such as social deprivation and climate change are rooted in inter-dependent systems that require innovative responses at multiple levels. 

Key objectives:

Having already embarked on an ambitious agenda to pursue environmental sustainability, Cornwall Council is taking bold steps towards addressing some of these challenges. To realise this vision, an assessment of current conditions is needed to identify priorities and inform progress. In a 3-month project funded by the UKRI Strategic Priorities Fund, a team of researchers from the ESI collaborated with Cornwall Council, using Kate Raworth’s ‘Doughnut Economics’ model to assess the current state of social and environmental conditions across Cornwall. 


This snapshot of the ‘state of the Doughnut’ in Cornwall provides a baseline from which to evaluate progress towards achieving a social foundation that meets human needs while also reducing environmental pressures. The report identifies a set of indicators that can be regularly revisited to assess progress, providing a framework to chart progress over time. This collaborative project contributes to a wider set of initiatives engaged in ‘downscaling the doughnut’, experimenting with the doughnut economics model as a tool to embed and monitor progress towards sustainable development. As a holistic framework to help pursue the goal of meeting people’s needs within environmental limits, the ‘doughnut model’ is attracting increased attention in a variety of locations across the world, and our research helps to signal Cornwall’s leadership in this field.

These summary graphics represent the key output from the research but the full report is available here to download.

Project Team

Rachel Turner (University of Exeter)

Frederica Poznansky (University of Exeter)

Nell Smirthwaite (University of Exeter)

Amber Blundell (University of Exeter)

David Benson (University of Exeter)

Kevin Gaston (University of Exeter)

Jessie Hamshar (Cornwall Council)

Ilya Maclean (University of Exeter)

Jane Wills (University of Exeter)

Xiaoyu Yan (University of Exeter)

Project Sponsors

A collaborative project funded by the UKRI Strategic Priorities Fund.