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FROM GROWING TO THRIVING: Relevance of Doughnut Economics in India

Through her book Doughnut Economics: seven ways to think like a 21st century economist, Kate Raworth introduced the doughnut model of economics, which guides the principles of a circular economy. This article focuses on the circular economic model of production and consumption, which includes reusing, repairing, remodeling, and recycling existing materials and products for as long as possible. As a response to the mounting challenges of urbanization and development, the doughnut model of economics is the all-in-one solution to the challenges of the twenty-first century.


Doughnut Model-what is it?

Making cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient, and sustainable is the eleventh sustainable development goal 2030. India is rapidly urbanizing while facing issues with preserving a diverse physical, climatic, geographical, ecological, social, cultural, and linguistic landscape. Rising population, urbanization, and development have posed challenges in building resilient cities with sustainability. The antidote to this upcoming challenge could be 'doughnut cities' or creating circular economies.

Most of us associate doughnut with images of soft, pillowy rounds of fried dough covered in chocolate and sprinkles. To Dr. Kate Raworth, however, a doughnut is reminiscent of economics.[1]. Kate Raworth, in the year 2017, published her book, “Doughnut Economics: seven ways to think like a 21st century economist” and introduced this model. Doughnut Model of Economics reimagines the economy as a doughnut. The outer ring of the doughnut model signifies the ecological limitations (planetary boundaries), and the inner ring represents a social foundation (the minimum requirements for our well-being). The model suggests that living "within the doughnut" is the ideal place for humanity to be in, and no one should be left inside the hole.

The existing models of growth and development in the country take into account growth compromising the planetary boundaries. The Doughnut presents a vision of what it means for humanity to prosper in the twenty-first century. Through the doughnut model, Raworth creates an inclusive space by addressing the challenges of cities and reiterating the need for regenerative circular economies. The final outputs can be reused, repaired, remanufactured, refurbished, or recycled.[2]This can also be considered as an extension of the pathway to the achievement of Sustainable Development Goals.


From linear to circular economies

The Doughnut Model is a circular economy that prioritizes thriving over economic growth to achieve a set of 11 societal goals within the constraints of nine planetary limitations. The nine planetary limitations include ozone layer depletion, climate change, ocean acidification, chemical pollution, air pollution, biodiversity loss, land conversion, freshwater withdrawals and nitrogen and phosphorus loading. This tool allows for a more holistic approach to the decision-making process at all levels of society. The model, designed for a consumerist society, represents a paradigm shift from linear to circular economies, led by the notion of decoupling economic growth from consumption. Failure to roll out and implement short-term strategies alludes to the necessity for a long-term strategy that fulfills the twin goals of reducing overall material use while addressing human needs within the ecological ceilings.

With India's population exceeding 136 crores and the country racing to become a five-trillion-dollar economy, there is an inevitable need for reformation in the traditional economic model that emphasizes GDP growth . Climate change, biodiversity loss, rapid urbanization, and pollution are some of the challenges of achieving the goal. Realigning its policies and development plans to address these challenges entails a circular economic model as the best course of action.

Recent initiatives by companies, government agencies, and nonprofits indicate convergence with circular economy ideas in India. These projects are vehicle-sharing programs, investments in renewable energy, and training programs for farmers to understand and apply regenerative methods. The NITI Aayog, in January 2019, pitched for a transition to resource efficiency and circular economy as an economic paradigm for new India.


The focus areas and circular opportunities

The agriculture and construction industries are the two most significant sources of employment in India, according to the report by Ellen Macarthur Foundation, accounting for nearly 60% of the working population and consuming the vast majority of India's raw materials. Furthermore, construction and vehicle manufacturing are expected to grow significantly over the next few decades. In total, these three priority areas account for more than 30% of India's gross value added. Thus, following the adoption of circular economies, policymakers in the country can focus on some key areas such as construction, food or agriculture, mobility or vehicle manufacturing, and material costs in business to implement of the doughnut model in the country.

Designing the construction of buildings assimilating circular economies may require systematic city planning, equipping the buildings with essential water, sanitation and waste management facilities, thereby creating a regenerative urban ecosystem. The nation could also follow Amsterdam's circular policy, which requires buildings to have a "materials passport" to ensure that the materials used in construction are renewable and valuable. Existing programs like, The Construction and Demolition Waste Management Rules 2016 (which requires local governments to use approximately 20% of construction and demolition waste in municipal contracts) and Smart City Mission can be altered to fit the needs of the doughnut model.

The Indian agriculture system employs 43% of its population and is considered the backbone of the economy[4]. Incorporating the principles of circular economics with traditional know-how and modern technology, the country would meet the growing food demands coupled with the regenerative and restorative system. Introducing proper waste management through reverse logistics for e-waste, repair hub, and Reuse Hubs would also ensure a safe and healthy environment to live in. Access to employment, growth, and services to the different stakeholders is made possible through mobility. With the population increasing faster, the demand for personal mobility will also increase in the coming years. Increasing the vehicle's durability and introducing the pay-per-use models( to reduce the private ownership of cars) can prevent the consequences of personal mobility. Increased production of electric vehicles can reduce oil dependency and ensure a clean source of energy. As the country plans on taking new infrastructure projects and vehicle manufacturing, intertwining its decisions complying with the circular economic models could create annual benefits of ₹31 lakh crore (US$ 482 billion) in 2050, compared with the current development scenario.


Models to look upon

In its journey to be a thriving and equitable city by 2050, Amsterdam has focused on three selected value chains: Food & Organic Waste Streams, Consumer Goods, and the Built Environment. Their strategic aim is to reduce the use of raw materials to achieve sustainability. The model has charted out a planned model for the city and is developing a tool to measure their progress. The City of Prague implements the idea of a circular economy through the RE-USE project, which aims to reduce waste and keep things in use. The construction sector, households, and utility sectors were three priority areas in their action plan.


The Way Ahead

Participatory local policies, decentralization, balanced participation of public enterprises and private players are the key elements in constructing a circular economy. All this combined with the technologies would make a perfect playing ground for the doughnut model in the country .It is important to make consumers aware of the sustainable products so that their choices and preferences would gradually shift to consuming the same. All of this requires current and potential employees to be trained in circular product design, innovative business models, and reverse logistics to put circular economy principles into practice.



Adopting the doughnut model can bridge the contemporary conversation of what needs to be and what is not. The model advocates for re-use, repair, remanufacture, refurbishment, or recycling to maintain ecological balance while meeting human needs. The Doughnut Model is an inclusive approach that integrates the circular economy, planetary boundaries, and social justice concerns and ensures no one is left behind in the middle of the hole. At this juncture, when Covid-19 has spilled over concerns about various economic needs, it is appropriate to spin the wheel toward the doughnut model. Why not make the narratives of our happy future healthy, safe, and resilient?

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