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Towards a Sustainable Economy: State of the Doughnut

Research overview:

The complex challenge 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 has worked with a team of researchers from the ESI to use Kate Raworth’s ‘Doughnut Economics’ model to assess the current state of social and environmental conditions across Cornwall. 

We have produced three reports that develop this work. The first outlined the ‘state of the doughnut in Cornwall’ (2020), the second looked at the uneven geography of challenges and opportunities within Cornwall (2021), and the third has explored how the leaders of Cornwall’s statutory services are working together to deliver the ambitious vision set out in the Cornwall Plan (2022). All can be found below under publications.

Impact:

Our first report provided a snapshot of the ‘state of the Doughnut’ in Cornwall that was used as a baseline from which to later 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 framework now underpins The Cornwall Plan 2020-2050, committing key stakeholders to improve sustainability outcomes by 2050.

Our second report identified the extent to which sustainability challenges and priorities vary geographically. There are also considerable capacity challenges and barriers to action at the local scale that could be overcome by stronger partnership working. This research is shaping debate about how to stimulate stronger local responses to sustainability challenges in Cornwall.

Our third report contributed to the work Cornwall Council has done to review progress towards realising the vision of the Cornwall Plan. The first Annual Review was presented to the CIOS Leadership Board in March 2022. Alongside a new dashboard and progress report produced by the strategy team in the Council (https://letstalk.cornwall.gov.uk/cornwall-plan), we produced a report to explore the state of partnership working and identify next steps for the delivery of the Cornwall Plan. As part of a British Academy funded project called ‘Localising and decentralising goal-based governance for sustainability’ we are organising an assembly to engage civil society in this work during 2022, reporting back to the Leadership Board in June.

Cornwall already has high levels of inequality, and it’s important to think about the fair distribution of costs and benefits as we tackle environmental challenges. Increasing the scope for local decision making and leadership should allow communities to develop appropriate plans for change.

Dr Rachel Turner

Towards a Sustainable Economy: State of the Doughnut.
Download the full report here
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Citation for this work:
Turner, R., Poznansky, F., Smirthwaite, N., Blundell, A., Benson, D., Gaston, K.J., Hamshar, J., Maclean, I., Wills, J. and Yan, X. (2020) Towards a Sustainable Cornwall: State of the Doughnut. Environment and Sustainability Institute, University of Exeter, UK.

Sustainable Development in Cornwall: Local Perspectives on Challenges and Opportunities.
Download the summary report here and full report here
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Citation for this work:
Turner, R.A., Blundell, A., Collins, C., Exeter, O.M., Wills, J. (2021) Sustainable Development in Cornwall: Local Perspectives on Challenges and Opportunities. Environment and Sustainability Institute, University of Exeter, UK.

Research into partnerships and collaborative working for the delivery of the Cornwall Plan.
Full report available here: Final Independent Annual Review 2022

Citation for this work:
Wills, J., Collins, C., Mukhopadhyay, R., and Turner, R. (2022). Annual Review of the Cornwall Plan (2021-2022). Research into partnerships and collaborative working for the delivery of the Cornwall Plan. Environment and Sustainability Institute, University of Exeter, UK.

Downscaling doughnut economics for sustainability governance.
Download the full report here

Citation for this work:
Turner, R.A., Wills, J. (2022). Downscaling Doughnut Economics for sustainability governance. Environment and Sustainability Institute, University of Exeter, UK.

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)
Claire Collins (University of Exeter)
Owen Exeter (University of Exeter)
Rishika Mukhopadhyay (now University of Durham)

Project Sponsors

A collaborative project funded by the UKRI Strategic Priorities Fund.

Introducing the project