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Ellen MacArthur

Princess of Asturias Award for International Cooperation 2022

Ellen Patricia MacArthur was born in Whatstandwell (Derbyshire, England) on 8th July 1976. A professional yachtswoman, she made history in 2005 by completing the fastest solo circumnavigation of the globe done by any sailor. In 2003, she founded the Ellen MacArthur Cancer Trust, which helps young people with cancer overcome their problems through sailing. In 2010, she created the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, a non-profit organization that aims to change the production and consumption habits of the world economy and accelerate the transition to what is known as circular economy.

Circular economy proposes a systemic change in industrial production for a better use of resources, based on the reduction, reuse and recycling of materials. It is one of the most important models in the fight in favour of sustainable development and currently has a relevant weight in the agendas of governments, companies and international organizations. The Ellen MacArthur Foundation has become a reference in the fight for a better use of resources by introducing the principles of circular economy in the mission of these institutions. It promotes what it calls systemic initiatives within Project MainStream, in collaboration with the World Economic Forum. Its main areas of research and participation are fourfold. The first is the food initiative, which brings together and stimulates the key players in the sector to make food production and the consumption system sustainable. Secondly, the New Plastics Economy initiative seeks to reduce the use of this material. In 2017, the Ellen MacArthur Foundation published the report entitled A New Textiles Economy: Redesigning the Future of Fashion, the seed of the Make Fashion Circular campaign, which it presented in 2018, together with designer Stella McCartney and the support of other clothing firms. This report analyses and promotes the need for transformation towards a system that uses better materials, promotes sustainable production and encourages the reuse of resources within the textile sector. Last, but not least, is the fight against climate change through the principles of circular economy to reduce the emission of greenhouse gases and other polluting elements. The Ellen MacArthur Foundation also offers a suite of information resources and educational platforms such as Circulytics, aimed at companies, and Circular Economy in Cities with resources for urban policymakers and change-makers. It organizes meetings and outreach and training activities to spread its ideas and objectives. It also publishes freely available reports and programmes, such as the Toolkit for Policymakers and the ResCoM project, with the same goal.

In 2020 politicians, managers and other personalities joined its call to promote economic recovery after the crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic through the responsible use of resources and circular economy. In February 2022, in cooperation with WWF (1988 Prince of Asturias Award for Concord), the Foundation launched a campaign to petition world leaders to reach a major international agreement to reduce plastics. A month later, the representatives of one hundred and seventy-five countries participating in the United Nations Environment Assembly, held in Nairobi (Kenya), agreed to create the first legally binding international treaty against plastic pollution, considered by Inger Andersen, Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme, the most important international environmental pact since the Paris Agreement against Climate Change (2016 Princess of Asturias Award for International Cooperation).

MacArthur is a member of the Club of Rome and a board member of the Platform for Accelerating the Circular Economy (PACE) in collaboration with the World Economic Forum. She is Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire (2005) and Chevalier of the French Legion of Honour (2008). In 2017, the Ellen MacArthur Foundation created the Innovation Prize to reward initiatives aimed at reducing plastics.

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