Ellen MacArthur launches new foundation

September 6th, 2010 by Ellen MacArthur Foundation

The Science Museum in London, a showcase of the most world-changing innovations in modern times, was a fitting venue for Ellen MacArthur to announce the launch of her new Foundation which is calling for people to ‘re-think, re-design and build a sustainable future’. This is the start of a very different journey for the world-renowned yachtswoman who first hit the headlines in 2001 after finishing second in the Vendée Globe solo, non-stop round the world race, and once 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 involves the management of limited resources at sea; to be fast you have to be light, so MacArthur learnt to manage her resources carefully, right down to the last drop of diesel for her generator and the last packet of food. “Back on land, it became clear to me that things are not so different” she says.

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.

Speaking at the launch, MacArthur said: “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 anything. 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 is time for a big re-think and, together with the next generation, a re-design of our future by intention.

The Ellen MacArthur Foundation is advocating a framework described as ‘The Circular Economy’, a longer-term approach which works alongside current practical initiatives. Founding partners B&Q, BT & CISCO (joint partners), National Grid and Renault have come onboard to back this concept.

Ellen MacArthur will Founding Partners from left to right: Neil Crockett of Cisco; Thierry Sybord of Renault UK; Euan Sutherland of B&Q; Ellen MacArthur; Gavin Patterson of BT; Nick Winser of National Grid; Eric Zuber of Renault (click image to expand)

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) and prices reflect the true cost of any activity, setting the ‘rules of the game’ for positive development cycles. The framework has already gained international attention in China and the Netherlands; at the launch Ellen shared the Foundation’s enthusiasm for this approach 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.

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. “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,” she adds.

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.

“I am so excited that the team and I have launched the Foundation. We have been working 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 anything 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!”

What next ?
The Ellen MacArthur Foundation is joining forces with Bradford University to run a two day international conference on closed loop thinking. The conference, aimed at high level business and education stakeholders, will be an opportunity to hear first hand from some of the world’s leading circular economy experts.

For further information please visit: www.ellenmacarthurfoundation.org

  1. No Comments

Have your say