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Dame Ellen MacArthur Promotes Circular Economy at Davos

1st February 2012

Record-breaking solo round-the-world yachtswoman Dame Ellen MacArthur has been promoting a new approach towards a sustainable economy at Davos.

Ellen’s bottom line is that products should be made so that they are easy to disassemble in order to re-cycle the parts inside. She claims that better design and more efficient use of materials - called a circular economy - could mean savings of $630bn for Europe alone.

The report, produced by consultancy McKinsey, calculates that greater resource efficiency could deliver multi-billion Euro savings equivalent to 23 per cent of current spending on manufacturing inputs.

The circular economy is a model based on goods and materials that can be disassembled and re-used, whereby firms restructure business models to profit from collecting and refurbishing, and remanufacturing and redistributing products.

The report calculates that as well as huge financial advantages, the project will reduce yearly greenhouse gas emissions by 7.4 million tonnes by keeping waste out of landfill.

The potential for financial savings is enormous in the car sector, where billions could be saved by the responsible disposal of machinery and equipment.

Another example of the benefits of businesses adapting to this new way of working, is instead of selling washing machines, companies should lease machines instead and sell 3,000 washes. This would remove the need to create machines with an expiry date, and the efficient machines would have a lower cost per wash.

Ellen said many companies have yet to wake up to the possibilities presented by the circular economy.

"Very few businesses are aware of the opportunities," she said during a web briefing from Davos. "This is a massive opportunity for EU manufacturing, for worldwide manufacturing... We are looking at redesigning a whole system here."

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