Dame Ellen MacArthur first hit the headlines in 2001 when she raced single-handedly non-stop around the world in the Vendée Globe when only 24 years old. After 94 days at sea, Ellen returned to a different life: she had come second in one of the hardest races in offshore sailing and the response was massive. Prior to her Vendée success, she won the solo transatlantic race from the UK to the USA and went on to win the Route du Rhum from France to the Caribbean in 2002.
Ellen MacArthur made yachting history in 2005 when she became the fastest solo sailor to circumnavigate the globe. She remains the UK’s most successful offshore racer, having won the Ostar, the Route du Rhum, and finished second in the Vendée Globe. She received the French Legion of Honour from President Nicolas Sarkozy in 2008, three years after having been knighted by HM Queen Elizabeth II.
A legendary adventurer and brilliant story-teller, Dame Ellen draws on her extraordinary experiences to help audiences achieve things they didn’t think were possible – a passion she continues to demonstrate in her advocacy of a sustainable global economy.
Having become acutely aware of the finite nature of the resources on which our linear economy relies, she retired from professional sailing to launch the Ellen MacArthur Foundation in 2010. The Foundation works to accelerate the transition to a circular economy, establishing the concept on the agenda of decision makers around the world. Since the publication of its first economic report in 2012, the Foundation has launched global initiatives on plastics, fashion, food and finance, developed innovation networks with educators, businesses, cities and governments, and published more than 20 reports and books.
Dame Ellen MacArthur is a World Economic Forum Global Agenda Trustee for Environment and Natural Resource Security and board member of its Platform for Accelerating the Circular Economy and she sat on the European Commission’s Resource Efficiency Platform between 2012 and 2014.
Ellen’s current and unexpected direction was a result of her competitions at sea, which gave her a very real understanding of what it means to rely on a finite supply of resources, as on the boat food, water and fuel were inescapably linked to success or failure. Five years ago this inspired a new journey, spending time with local and national governments, scientists and working across key industry sectors to understand how on land too we rely on finite resources in the form of materials, energy and water.
It was through this realisation that Ellen made the difficult decision to end her professional racing career and focus on a still greater challenge. She now dedicates her time advocating for a shift from our ultimately limited linear to economy to one that is re-generative by nature. In September 2010 she launched the Ellen MacArthur Foundation with the goal of “accelerating the transition to a regenerative, circular economy”. The Foundation works in the three areas of business, education and communication.