Critically, Doughnut Economics also challenges businesses to be distributive in their practices – sharing value and opportunity much more equitably with all those who create it.
This means paying at least a living wage, paying fair taxes and sharing success – and even decision-making – with workers.
Some of the best examples are when the regenerative and distributive come together or, for example, when communities create their own renewable energy cooperatives to achieve affordable and renewable energy.
Bucking the trend
There are many positive practices in place that we want to incentivise, encourage and build across the business world. None are perfect, but all buck the trend of their industry: modular phones such as the Fairphone instead of built-in obsolescence, long-term commitment to workers – such as the employee ownership model at Richer Sounds – instead of zero-hour contracts.
So what enables all this? What is in the design of these enterprises that allows the pursuit of regenerative and distributive goals?
For Richer Sounds, becoming employee owned locks in the company’s commitment to its workers. For Fairphone, raising finance through crowdfunding and impact investment supports the company’s investment in modular product design.
The idea of alternative business structures is not new. A range of business forms has existed for as long as businesses have, including ownership by churches, not-for-profit organisations, clubs, foundations, universities, communities and more.
Throughout history, these have served as alternatives to the idea that business exists primarily to create maximum profit in order to grow the private wealth of its owners.
Recently, new ‘designs’ – such as social enterprise, platform cooperatives, benefit corporations and steward ownership – have emerged to join the centuries-old cooperative model, the inspiration for many emerging models of enterprise design.
In order to standardise and regulate these models, some have spawned legal forms or certification.
The diversity of existing models demonstrates that the possibilities of enterprise design are endless.
What’s needed now is an explosion of innovation and creativity in new enterprise designs, each tailored around the impact priorities and challenges of individual businesses.
We are at the cusp of a revolution in how business is structured and we need leaders, citizens and policy-makers to focus on transforming the deep design of business.
If we channel our cooperative and caring nature as humans into the way we design enterprises, we can unlock a business world that helps us overcome the daunting challenges of the 21st century.