Ellen MacArthur - model for the world's resources
Dame Ellen MacArthur talks to The Marketing Society’s editor Elen Lewis about sailing around the world aged 24, and a new model for the world’s energy and resources.
If you could talk to your 24-year-old self just before setting sail around the globe, what would you say?
To be honest, I can't think of much that I would say, as I wouldn’t have wanted to spoil the excitement of the unknown.
What motivated you to launch the Ellen MacArthur Foundation?
Realising the true meaning of the word “finite” was a defining moment for me. Sailing around the world against the clock in 2004, I had with me the absolute minimum of resources in order to be as light, hence as fast, as possible. At sea, what you have is all you have. Stopping en route to re-stock is not an option and careful resource management can be a matter of life or death. Running out of energy to power the autopilot means you can be upside down in seconds. My boat was my world, I was constantly aware of its supplies limits and when I stepped back ashore, I began to see that our world was not any different. I started to research issues around energy and materials, which eventually led me to eventually set up the Foundation in 2010.
Explain your vision for a ‘regenerative, circular economy’.
We’re talking about a potential systemic shift towards a circular model in which materials, technical as well as biological, continuously flow. Metals and polymers are kept in loops and re-employed while being kept at the highest level of quality; organic elements return to the soil safely and help build natural capital. This of course presupposes careful design – for ease of disassembly, for instance – and the elimination of toxicity. As we’ve seen when working on our economic report on the opportunities of such as model, with the help of McKinsey & Company, there are both immediate and long-term benefits to be achieved by moving away from linear consumption. The figures that came out of that work, which involved no less than 50 expert interviews, are quite compelling – in fact 630 billion USD for Europe alone.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given?
Follow your heart and give all you’ve got.
Dame Ellen MacArthur spoke at The Marketing Society Annual Conference 2012. This year's 'Creativity for Commerce' Annual Conference on 21 November includes speakers such as Richard Curtis CBE, Sir Peter Bazalgette, Sir Terry Leahy and more.
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