Problems with the Stockholm Wedding Cake model

Posted in: Comment, News and Updates

The St George's House consultation was valuable in many ways.  One unexpected outcome for me was coming across (thanks, Paul Vare) the Stockholm Resilience Centre's Wedding Cake model of the SDGs.  It's here.

The Centre says:

This model changes our paradigm for development, moving away from the current sectorial approach where social, economic, and ecological development are seen as separate parts. Now, we must transition toward a world logic where the economy serves society so that it evolves within the safe operating space of the planet.

This is the layered cake:

Partnership Goal                     17

Economic Goals                8  9  10  12

Social Goals                 1  2  3  4  5  7  11  16

Biosphere Goals               6  13  14  15

In the model, the bottom layer of the cake represents the biosphere [ Goals 6, 13, 14, 15 ].  The next layer has Goals 1 to 5, 7, 11, 16 and this is society.  The next later is the economy [ Goals 8, 9, 10, 12 ], and at the top where, in more traditional times the bride and groom would be, is Goal 17: Partnerships for the Goals | Strengthen the implementation and revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development

All this immediately invites comparison with Kate Raworth's (and Oxfam's) Doughnut, but a more pertinent comparison, perhaps, is with the Daly and Meadows modelling of the Earth system and human society.  More on all this later.

As for the wedding cake, whilst it has to be right to have the biosphere where it is as this underpins everything else (and won't environmental educators everywhere be pleased), it seems odd to have the economy above society in this way, given that it is supposed to "serve society"  In this view it seems obvious that society's role is to support the economy which is where much of humanity is now stuck.  How odd that the Stockholm Resilience Centre made this fundamental error.


The 17 goals are:

  • 17: Partnerships for the Goals


  • 8: Decent Work and Economic Growth
  • 9: Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure
  • 10: Reduced Inequalities
  • 12: Responsible Consumption and Production


  • 1: No Poverty
  • 2: Zero Hunger
  • 3: Good Health and Well-Being
  • 4: Quality Education
  • 5: Gender Equality
  • 7: Affordable and Clean Energy
  • 11: Sustainable Cities and Communities
  • 16: Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions


  • 6: Clean Water and Sanitation
    13: Climate Change
    14: Life Below Water
    15: Life on Land


Posted in: Comment, News and Updates


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