Towards a thriving Europe beyond economic growth

Mainstreaming the Doughnut Economics in EU policy

In the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, Europe is challenged with balancing the social protection of its citizens and stabilising the economy while simultaneously preventing environmental degradation and mitigating the effects of climate change. To be resilient in the long term, political governance and EU policies should  decouple macroeconomic stability from the reliance on economic growth. In an economic  development paradigm based on equity and wellbeing within planetary boundaries, the interconnected areas of economic, environmental and social policy should carry equal weight.

Building on its experience in exploring how to mainstream resilience and wellbeing in the recovery, ZOE aims at changing the direction of European economic policy towards environmental sustainability, social cohesion and wellbeing and replace GDP as a policy goal.

In line with ZOE’s organisational goals and the needs of the EU, this project aims at translating transformative policies for systemic economic change into concrete political action on the EU level. Europe’s 2050 vision of ‘living well, within planetary boundaries’ already aligns with those goals, relying on concepts such as ‘climate neutrality’, ‘regenerative economy’, ‘measuring economic performance beyond GDP’, and ‘using wellbeing as a compass for policy’.

The EU has a number of ongoing policy processes which address these goals, namely the 8th Environmental Action Plan, the Resilience Dashboards, the European Green Deal, the EU Semester and the Sustainable Development Goals. As each of the many ongoing processes have their own sets of indicators and corresponding targets to measure progress towards these indicators, policymakers are challenged to ensure targets across one policy area do not entail tensions and trade-offs with another. Dashboards for existing EU policy processes fall short in ensuring consistency and providing the overarching pathway to achieve transformative change.

To address these challenges we propose integrating the Doughnut Economics framework, which brings together the fundamental notions of ecological ceiling, showing where we overshoot planetary boundaries, and social foundation, showing where we fall short on meeting social needs. As such, it can serves as a compass to navigate and monitor progress towards the EU’s environmental, economic, and social objectives.

To design a monitoring strategy for EU policies which build towards a resilient and regenerative wellbeing economy and integrate the Doughnut, ZOE will host co-creative workshops in which our experts work in collaboration with policymakers from the European Commission to determine the needs and fears of policymakers. This process also incorporates the knowledge of the policymakers and political discussions within the EU and the recommendations from ZOE for strong and beneficial markers of progress.

Building on the learnings from the workshop, ZOE published a report on integrating the Doughnut into the monitoring of EU policies with an overarching dashboard that uses a set of indicators carefully selected by the ZOE project team for their ability to measure progress towards environmental, social and economic goals. These indicators are cross-cutting, measurable with current EU data, and are straightforward so that they can be understood by the public with the aim of transparency.

Associated publications

Associated topics


Project team

Christiny Miller
Junior Consultant
Coline Lavorel
Outreach and Network Lead
Jonathan Barth
Managing Director