Design for Interdependence

Imperatives for economic system change

Design for

  • Recognize the interdependence of healthy people, planet, and economies;
  • Balance the relationships between the private sector, government and civil society;
  • Ensure that everyone has access to free and fair markets.

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Invest for

  • Remove structural inequality;
  • Ensure leadership and ownership are more inclusive, and investment more accessible;
  • Use technology to advance democratic ideals and human rights;
  • Promote greater voice, power and opportunity for those currently marginalized.

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Account for

  • Measure success based on credible common metrics of sustainable value creation for all stakeholders;
  • Create incentives that reward business and investments creating social and environmental value;
  • Enhance standards of fiduciary duty.

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What does this Imperative mean?

People everywhere need an economic system that is balanced, reflecting both human and planetary needs. Designing an economy that reflects the interdependence of all living things means the health of all benefits all. This acknowledges the fragility of our climate and nature and underlines our role in proactively protecting them, to secure a sustainable future. With interdependence at the heart of our design principles, our economic system will focus on the wellbeing of every person and the viability of our natural world. This interdependent economic system will help us realise the Sustainable Development Goals, the global community’s agreed ambitions for 2030.

A key part of interdependence by design is the strengthened capacity of stakeholders from all sectors to shape and benefit from the economic system. To achieve this, we need to support norms and rules that enable dialogue across all stakeholders and sectors, from business to government to civil society. This rebalances representation, voice and decision-making among economic actors. It also emphasises co-creation and collaboration within the economic system we want and need. Indeed, collective action should determine the guardrails for the economy.

In the interdependent economy, ideas and interests must compete openly and promote fairness.

Simply put, an economic system designed for interdependence better serves people’s needs, by tending to the planet, encouraging circularity, and ensuring that natural resources are available for future generations.

What are some examples?

Below is an indicative list of allies, initiatives and projects that demonstrate design for interdependence.

  • Doughnut economics in Amsterdam: In 2020, the city of Amsterdam in the Netherlands became the first city to implement Kate Raworth’s doughnut economics model as the basis of its policymaking, attempting to meet basic needs and stay within ecological limits by design. Amsterdam has created a “city portrait” to develop a holistic approach to its various public policy challenges, from building a circular economy to the housing crisis.
  • Natura’s Commitment to Life: Cosmetics group Natura, owner of Avon and The Body Shop, has set bold ambitions for 2030, called its Commitment to Life. The core of this effort is an all-encompassing business model that gives back more than it takes, with commitments spanning human rights, climate change, biodiversity protection and circularity. For example, Natura aims to have over 95% natural or renewable ingredients in its products in the next decade and  to reach zero deforestation of the Amazon by 2025. To get this started, Natura is part of a consortium working on developing science-based targets for biodiversity and has also called for a living wage.
  • Net-Zero Asset Owner Alliance (AOA): A group of 29+ institutional investors with US $5 trillion in assets joined up under the auspices of UNEP’s Finance Initiatives and the Principles for Responsible Investment in 2019, in a clear commitment to transitioning their investment portfolios to net-zero GHG emissions by 2050. As pension funds and insurance companies, these asset owners have long-term investment interests. The AOA is also working with WWF and a range of government partners.
  • The Capitals Coalition: This Coalition promotes the evaluation of an organization’s relationship to natural, social, human and produced capital, to better understand the value the capitals both give to and take from a range of stakeholders.

What tools are already available?

Below is an indicative list of tools that can help business and others realize this imperative.

  • Task Force on Climate Related Disclosures (TCFD) Learning Hub: This site offers courses on climate related disclosures, embedding climate into financial management, and governance of climate related risk and opportunities, among other topics — all linked to the recommendations of the TCFD, which have been increasingly adopted by major investors and leading companies.
  • Circular Design Toolkit: Created by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, this toolkit enables an organization to design its operations and activities through a circular lens, acknowledging the limitations of our natural world and transforming waste into value. (
  • SDG Action Manager: The United Nations Global Compact and B Lab developed the SDG Action Manager as a web-based tool to provide support to companies looking to align with the SDGs most relevant to them, as well as to measure and report on their impact and progress related to the sustainability goals.
  • Decide Madrid: Madrid is one of the first cities in the world to implement a participatory democracy tool, enabling its citizens to have a say in the decisions made for the city. Such a tool rebalances the relationship between citizens and governments. The city of Madrid also provides transparency around the City Council and budgeting — and supports other municipalities to deploy this software-based tool.
  • B20 Collective Action Hub
    The B20 Collective Action Hub, run by the Basel Institute on Governance in partnership with the UN Global Compact, is a resource and knowledge centre with a database of about 150 collective action projects focused on anti-corruption efforts around the world. The principles and practices featured focus on mitigating corruption but can be used as models for collective, multi-stakeholder action on a range of issues.

What are some points of reference and inspiration?

Below are some sources of thought leadership on interdependence.

  • Economist Mariana Mazzucato has explored the need to redefine value and rethink how innovation is incentivised. Her work has especially highlighted the role governments can play in stimulating private sector growth and the need for business and government to work together to co-create markets. As part of this, Mazzucato argues for the importance of collaboration among civil society, government and business to drive experimentation and innovation at local and global levels. She proposes a ‘missions’ approach, made attractive via grants and prizes. To ensure the relevance and longevity of ‘missions’, she also emphasizes the need for multistakeholder, society-driven collaboration, for example through community-based workshops.
  • The Capital Institute advocates for a transformation of the economic system to achieve social and ecological regeneration — and is interested in how the rules and patterns of living systems can apply to economic systems. Their 8 principles of what a Regenerative Economy could look like, built on the patterns and principles of sustainable systems in the real world. Their Fieldguide for a regenerative economy shares stories of regenerative economy in action.


Let’s RESET. Together.

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