Eco-Innovator Ellen MacArthur Partners With H&M to Recycle Clothes

Eco-Innovator Ellen MacArthur Partners With H&M to Recycle Clothes

While attempting to become the youngest person to circumnavigate the globe 11 years ago, British sailing champion Ellen MacArthur had plenty of time to think.

Sure, she probably considered how success might lead to being knighted by Queen Elizabeth II – and how she’d have to reprint her business cards to include the title Dame before her name.

But her 71 days alone at sea also allowed her to ponder weightier topics like ecology and industrial engineering.

“Without looking for it, I found something quite fundamental. That was that when you sail around the world in a boat, you take everything with you you need, you’re at sea for three months (…) You realise what finite really means, because what you have, is all you have, there simply is no more. I stepped off the boat at the finish line and I suddenly realised that in fact our global economy is no different. Our global economy is entirely dependent on finite resources,” MacArthur told Euronews after successfully completing the voyage and setting several world records.

The Ellen MacArthur of 2015, now 39, is an eco-innovator with the influence, deep pockets and international private and public sector support to get things done. 

She’s been a keynoter for two years running at the highly respected BSR Conference – the acronym stands for the business of corporate responsibility – and the Ellen MacArthur Foundation now enjoys the backing of brands like Cisco, Google, Kingfisher, Renault, Philips and Unilever.

On Wednesday in San Francisco, MacArthur announced that fashion retailer H&M would partner with her foundation to emulate the recycling success seen for decades in the pulp and paper – but with clothing.

“A substantial opportunity exists for the clothing sector to emulate this success and to take it much further with regard to keeping biological and technical based fibers in circulation, at high quality,” MacArthur’s foundation and H&M said following the BSR announcement.

H&M has been successful at collecting and reprocessing used apparel, and has been incorporating some 20 percent recycled fiber in the clothing it sells.  A recent H&M sustainability report was recognized as the fifth best in the world at the Corporate Responsibility Reporting Awards  and its “Closing the Loop” video demonstrates how the fashion sector can embrace the circular economy.