Dame Ellen Floats Business Ideas for Circular Economy

Ellen MacArthur today embarks on the latest challenge of her remarkable career, launching a charitable foundation, supported by key business sector leaders, to focus on how young people in education, learning from the latest business ideas, can help to build a sustainable future.

The move is part of a very different journey for MacArthur, who became a sporting legend in 2001 after finishing second in the Vendée Globe solo, non-stop round the world race and again in 2005 as the fastest person to sail single-handedly around the world. It was during that epic voyage that she began to realise there was an even greater challenge ahead. Round-the-World sailing involved the management of limited resources at sea; to be fast you have to be light, so MacArthur managed these resources down to the last drop of diesel for her generator, and the last packet of food.

“Back on land it became clear that things are not so different,”

she says.

The Ellen MacArthur Foundation adopts the framework described as ‘The Circular Economy’, a longer-term approach which works alongside current practical initiatives.

The yachtswoman has spent the last four years working behind the scenes and talking with government, business, NGOs and the public sector to learn more about the complexities of the challenges we face. Founding partners B&Q, BT & CISCO (joint partners), National Grid and Renault have come onboard to back this concept.

Ahead of the launch at London’s Science Museum, MacArthur says:

“Our economy is still based on a linear ‘take, make and dispose’ model. We take minerals, oils and metals out of the ground, make something valuable with them using fossil fuels and then throw them away which can never be sustainable. Just taking a bit less, making a bit less, and recycling a bit more, isn’t going to fix everything. Efficiency is crucial, yes. But it’s not the ‘cure-all’. The Foundation is supporting a longer term approach based on the principle of ‘using things’ rather than ‘using things up’. We feel it’s time for a big re-think, and together with the next generation, re-design our future by intention.”

In a Circular Economy, powered increasingly by renewables, waste becomes food for another cycle or process rather than simply thrown away (Where is ‘away’? she asks). Prices will reflect the true cost of any activity, setting the ‘rules of the game’ for positive development cycles, she adds. The framework has already gained international attention in China and the Netherlands; today MacArthur will share the Foundation’s enthusiasm for this Circular Economy with guests including Chris Huhne MP, Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, Douwe Jan Joustra a representative from the Dutch Government and a number of UK and European business leaders.

Euan Sutherland, CEO of B&Q and Kingfisher UK Division who will join Ellen and the other Founding Partners later today at the event, said:

“B&Q is proud to support the Ellen MacArthur Foundation together with BT & CISCO (joint partners), National Grid and Renault. Not only do we strongly believe that the Foundation’s long term approach to education is vital, it also takes us on our next step of the journey towards being a sustainable business. We will involve our employees and bring new perspectives and skills to the business, engage our suppliers and through this partnership ensure that more young people leaving school are better equipped to build sustainable homes, businesses and lives for the future. Smart businesses, in a world of increasingly finite resources and increasing energy costs, will be those that adapt and evolve – and B&Q is embracing this challenge.”

In the year the United Nations has designated the International Year of Youth, MacArthur, her Foundation and its partners are placing emphasis on the need to educate, inspire and empower this next generation.

MacArthur continued:

“There is a way of re-designing how we make and use things. Our aim is to equip young people with the business and life skills we believe necessary for a truly sustainable economy – looking more closely at future product design, transport, energy and communications that fit this model.”

The Foundation is working with leading educational bodies such as the Nuffield Foundation to deliver top-flight classroom ideas and resources for science, design and technology and maths. Future work is planned for economics, business studies and careers with a post-graduate certificate in the ‘circular economy’ already under development at Bradford University. The Ellen MacArthur Foundation is keen to work in other languages and regions and is piloting ‘Project Redesign’, a series of regional workshops where students can model a sustainable, circular economy and win business apprenticeships.

Steve Holliday, Chief Executive of National Grid who will also join Ellen and the other Founding Partners at the event, added:

“With an estimated £200 billion of energy infrastructure investment required in the UK over the next decade to meet the challenges of creating a low carbon sustainable future, it’s an absolute necessity that we have a strong, thriving, engineering talent pipeline. We need to engage, encourage and enthuse tomorrow’s engineers today, and inspire them to think radically about how best to meet these challenges. We believe the approach being taken by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation can be a catalyst for helping achieve this. We are delighted to play our part.”

Dame Ellen summed it all up by saying:

“I am so excited that the team and I are launching the Foundation. We have worked together for over a year to finalise exactly how we can help play a part in this huge challenge, which is harder and more complex than I’ve confronted before, but I’m loving every minute of it! This time there is no finish line – but perhaps that’s no bad thing!”

For further information visit: www.ellenmacarthurfoundation.org

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