Ellen MacArthur reveals importance of "circular economy" investment hot spots

Oliver Gill
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Ellen MacArthur held the solo round the world sailing record between 2005 and 2008 and set up her foundation in 2010 (Source: Getty)

Dame Ellen MacArthur revealed her sailing exploits pale into insignificance compared with the importance of promoting her €900bn (£776bn) “circular economy”.

MacArthur, who became the fastest solo sailor to circumnavigate the globe in 2005, will today unveil the latest report from her foundation, identifying 10 investment “hot spots” which she hopes will turn the global economy on its head.

“As much as I absolutely loved sailing and never thought I’d stop racing, I’ve never done anything as important as this because it really matters,” MacArthur told City A.M., adding:

The circular economy is all about opportunity. It’s all about building a resilient economy. It’s much more important [than sailing].

Social good

The circular economy was first unveiled in 2015 and focuses on encouraging investment in firms that identify excess capacity and use technology to make a business from it.

One example of MacArthur's initiative is the way AirBnB has turned helping people let out spare rooms or unoccupied property, into a business worth billions of dollars.

Such firms also play an important environmental role, according to MacArthur, by – in AirBnB's case – mitigating the need to build of excess property.

At the heart of the plans is a push to encourage businesses to develop what we already have and make it sustainable – this extends into three key sections: mobility, farming and food, and manufactured products – rather than invest in less sustainable practices.

MacArthur has the backing of a raft of big business – from electronics firm Philips to sportswear manufacturer Nike

Today’s update at the World Economic Forum in Davos specifically identifies the areas the Ellen MacArthur Foundation believes investors should focus on.

“What this report does, about 18 months later, is if you want to unlock that economic growth, from circular economic growth these are the 10 investment themes that you want to focus on,” she said.


MacArthur added there were no easy wins to drive through such a change. She said:

When you are talking about the circular economy you are talking about systemic change to our system. Which in some cases is very hard to do.

Meanwhile, although the foundation has estimated a €900bn economic boost to Europe, MacArthur sees no reason why such business investment cannot be extended globally, with developing nations primed to be successful.

“There is a massive global economic opportunity. In fact it is perhaps even greater in emerging markets because they have the ability to leapfrog our linear system that we have developed as a result of the industrial revolution and move towards a more circular one,” she said.

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