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01/22/2016 01:11 pm ET

What Sailing The World Taught This Record-Breaking Yachtswoman

"Suddenly, when I set foot off the boat at the finish line of the round-the-world record in 2005, I began to realize our global economy also had finite resources."

Dame Ellen MacArthur has seen a fair amount of the world. She's circumnavigated it in her yacht -- in record speed -- twice.

It was in her boat, completely alone and with just the supplies she packed for her journey, that she first thought about scarcity, she told The Huffington Post's Jo Confino, at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. 

"Suddenly, when I set foot off the boat at the finish line of the round-the-world record in 2005, I began to realize our global economy also had finite resources," she said.

That notion stuck at the back of her mind, and when she retired from sailing in 2009, it motivated her leap from the world of sailing to that of economics. She founded the Ellen MacArthur Foundation in 2010 to accelerate the world's transition into a "circular economy," one that produces no waste or pollution.

She told Confino, "Since I was 4, I was always fascinated by a goal: to sail around the world. For the global economy, what's the goal?"

She wanted to rectify the lack of a long-term strategy in global business, which, according to her, seeming interested only in "buying time" against the fact of finite resources.

Although MacArthur had little business experience beyond her corporate sponsorships for sailing, she took issue with the myopic business focus on efficiency and bottom lines. With her knowledge of scarcity from her time at sea, she found the "linear" relationship of businesses and resources to be problematic.

MacArthur offers the circular economy model as an alternative to the status quo. "Looking at [concepts like] industrial symbiosis, biomimicry, sharing economy, suddenly you start to see a different economy panning out," she said.

Even though she doesn't have a traditional business background, MacArthur thinks it's critical to reimagine the current, unsustainable system. If resources are finite, she says, you can't just keep going until they run out. 

"We want something that is restorative and regenerative, a business model that can bring resilience to the business rather than have it exposed to more volatile prices," MacArthur said.

More stories from the World Economic Forum 2016:

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