Customer Case Study - Ellen MacArthur Foundation

Every day we ask: "How have we changed the world?"
After realising her dreams as a world-beating yachtswoman,
Ellen MacArthur set out on a new kind of journey.

Cisco keeps Ellen MacArthur Foundation connected

With help from Cisco Designed, UK charity Ellen MacArthur Foundation has the right network to fulfil their mission to inspire a generation to re-think, re-design and build a positive future circular economy. 

Organization: Ellen MacArthur Foundation

Sector: Charity

Country: United Kingdom

Founded: 2010

Employees: 140

Company website:

Every day, we ask: “How have we changed the world?”

Children often dream of adventures at sea. But few put aside their school lunch money, week after week, to bring their dreams to life.

Ellen MacArthur was the kind of child who did just that. She imagined the freedom of sailing and, slowly but surely, saved enough change to pay for an eight-foot dinghy.

Ellen’s focus and passion grew with age. At 24, she raced single-handedly non-stop around the world in the Vendée Globe. At 28, she completed a transatlantic crossing. At 29, she circumnavigated the globe solo again. Each of these journeys set a world record.

But when, at 32, Ellen travelled to South Georgia in the remote south Atlantic, she experienced a shock of insight. In her own words:

When you sail around the world, you take the minimum of resources. You don’t waste a thing. But on land, we take resources for granted. And it just hit home to me: we can’t keep doing that.

Ellen MacArthur

So, this time Ellen set out on a new kind of journey. She launched her charity, the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, dedicating her passion to an even grander vision: transforming the global economy for the better.

“We’re not looking to just get donations in. We’re trying to change the whole economic system.”

After joining forces with key associates, Ellen turned to fundraising. She wrote 2,000 letters of appeal and received two replies – and no pledges. But, refusing to give up, she sat in the cabin of her boat and started painting miniatures of boats to raise money.

Thankfully, the charity’s positive vision of a regenerative, ‘circular’ economy won through and began to attract the attention of businesses. The philosophy draws on many ideas, including industrial symbiosis and cradle-to-cradle design. It aims to ‘design out’ waste, so systems can work long-term.

For example, what if packaging could dissolve in water? What if it was so non-toxic that we could simply drink it, and it could never become waste?

Inviting fresh ideas has helped the charity grow fast. In 2017 it launched its first plastics initiative, with over 40 businesses and cities coming together to redesign the future of plastics – starting with packaging.

And by 2018, the Foundation’s Global Partners included industry leaders like BT/Cisco (working together), Unilever, Renault, Google, Danone and Nike.

“As soon as Cisco stepped in, it was a massive help for us.”

Cisco formed an early partnership with the Foundation. The CEOs of the first five business partners to support the Ellen MacArthur Foundation used to sit in a room with Ellen and strategize about what the Foundation should look like.

Cisco also provided systems and solutions, which it later upgraded to support the Foundation’s rapid growth. The Foundation continues to use Cisco technology as it provides access to enterprise grade technology for smaller businesses.

“Compared to the rest of the building fit out, installing the network was a doddle”

Today, the Ellen MacArthur Foundation is growing rapidly, it’s HQ has moved to bigger premises on the Isle of Wight and is now a global operation – but still only has a team of 3 within the IT department.

The Cisco Designed portfolio has cloud-based networking technology that allows the team to manage growth easily by providing visibility of what’s going on within the network and enables the department to future-proof any business and system expansion plans. Jim Clews, IT manager tells of the smooth transition “Provisioning was easy, monitoring was excellent and we were able to replicate our current network really simply. It was easier than fitting the carpets to our new office.”

A concern for any business, of any size – especially one handling sensitive client data and information – is security. With the Foundation’s team working remotely across the world it’s important that all our information is safe. Through the network’s Mobile Device Management Jim can ensure systems are up to date and devices can be tracked and wiped if lost – all from his office or even his mobile phone.

Cloud-based networking, like the Circular Economy, is an expandable solution that allows growth and development without having to discard and replace for an update.

As the Foundation’s work generates significant interest globally, Ellen’s inspiring phrase, “Knowing the extraordinary is possible”, remains a North Star on its journey.



The Cisco Designed portfolio helps connect companies with an offering of tailored small business networking solutions. You can also learn more about Meraki cloud-based networking here.

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