Safia Minney

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Safia Minney MBE FRSA, is a British social entrepreneur and author. She is the founder of People Tree (although no longer CEO), a pioneering sustainable and Fair Trade fashion label with a mission to provide customers with beautiful clothes. She is also a well noted spokesperson and campaigner on Fair Trade and ethical fashion. She initiated World Fair Trade Day in 1999 which is endorsed by the World Fair Trade Organization and their members and celebrated on the second Saturday of May each year. Additionally, she co-wrote the book, Naked Fashion, The Sustainable Fashion Revolution.[1] published by New Internationalist and in 2013 launched the Rag Rage Campaign which helped bring pressure with over a million signatories to clean-up practice in the fashion industry.


Early career[edit]

Minney started her career in marketing and publishing. She worked for Creative Review magazine for four years where she developed her passion for creativity and communications. From working in the advertising industry, Minney became excited about using the power of communications for social good by raising awareness of social and environmental issues.

After backpacking alone for three months between Bali and Myanmar, Minney created her own social marketing consultancy working with New Statesman and Friends of the Earth. In 1990, Minney moved to Tokyo with her husband where she learnt Japanese before working for a publishing company, Amnesty International, and eventually the Body Shop.[2]

Global Village[edit]

Minney identified an opportunity to expand environmental awareness and Fair Trade in Japan. She started Global Village, an environmental campaigning and awareness raising voluntary group in her home which focused on all aspects of sustainable living. With students and friends, Minney began producing and publishing an organic listings – the ‘green’ information she believed people needed to live a more sustainable lifestyle.

Minney and the team started to design and sell Fair Trade products at festivals around Japan and soon started to get requests from stockists. In 1995 Fair Trade Company was formed as a limited company by transferring the fair trading activity of Global Village into the new company. A shop was opened in the fashionable Jiyugaoka district, in Tokyo and in 1996 it became a member of WFTO, the World Fair Trade Organization. Fair Trade Company operated from the Minney's home for nine years, gradually occupying more space than their new family. By 2000 it had grown to 17 staff members trying to co-ordinate catalogue production, sales to 500 shops, events and campaigns; it was time to take a commercial office space.

In 2000 the name 'People Tree' was registered as the trading name for Fair Trade Company.

People Tree[edit]

With a mission to provide livelihoods and economic independence for producers and protect the environment, Minney's first collection of clothing was made in co-ordination with Bangladeshi women using their traditional hand woven materials with eco-friendly and natural dyes. Supported by two full-time designers at People Tree, the collection was sold by catalogue and featured an array of product including handbags, clothing, and clogs.[3]

The initial start up was incredibly hard. Minney once said, "When I started out, I wasn't very realistic on how difficult it would be to make People Tree work. We were investing in labour-intensive process while the industry was going in the other direction: mass-manufactured fashion, using synthetics instead of natural materials. We were dealing with very disadvantaged people in remote places, and the business costs were huge. It was a massive undertaking, but it needed to be done."[4][5]

In 2001, People Tree's business expanded to England as there was little Fair Trade fashion in Europe.

In 2014 People Tree is the first international clothing company to be awarded the World Fair Trade Organisation Fair Trade product label with an international sales turnover of £8m. WFTO labelling guarantees People Tree’s dedication and compliance to the Principles of Fair Trade, covering fair wages, working conditions, transparency, capacity building, environmental best practice, gender equality and setting standards for conventional fashion companies to improve their supply chains. Ten years ago People Tree launched the first clothing range to meet the Global Organic Textile Standard certified by the Soil Association in the so-called developing world.

Personal life[edit]

Minney was born in Britain in 1964 to a Swiss mother and Mauritian father.[2] She grew up in a middle class suburb in England. She left school at 17 and moved to London where she worked in publishing and marketing. At 22, she visited South East Asia for three months. It was during this time she cultivated a passion for the environment, social justice, grassroots based development and the power of Fair Trade in delivering human rights.

She married her husband James Minney in 1989, and has two children. James Minney is current COO of People Tree.


  • 2014 – Safia Minney shortlisted for the Social Enterprise Women’s Champion Award
  • 2014 – People Tree voted Top 5 Ethical Retailers in the UK by Ethical Consumer
  • 2013 – People Tree won Best Organic Textile Product at the Natural and Organic Products Europe Awards
  • 2013 – People Tree Highly Commended at London Sustainable City Awards in Sustainable Fashion Retail category
  • 2012 – Safia Minney won the SOURCE Award as most outstanding contributor to sustainable fashion
  • 2012 – Safia Minney won the Outstanding Contribution Award for furthering sustainability in the fashion sector and People Tree was a finalist, both in the Guardian Sustainable Business Awards
  • 2011 – People Tree was a finalist in the WGSN Global Fashion Awards
  • 2010 – People Tree won Reveal Magazine's Best Ethical Style Award
  • 2010 – People Tree won High Street Fashion Week's Eco Warrior Award
  • 2010 – People Tree won Cosmopolitan Magazine's Best Ethical E-tailer Award
  • 2009 – People Tree won the Observer Ethical Fashion Award
  • 2009 – Safia Minney was awarded an MBE in The Queen's Birthday Honours
  • 2008 – People Tree won the best eco-fashion website at the Green Web Awards
  • 2008 – Safia Minney was a finalist in the Triodos Bank Women in Ethical Business Awards
  • 2006 – Safia Minney won Social Entrepreneur of the Year in the Edge Upstart Awards
  • 2006 – Safia Minney was a finalist at the CBI's First Women Awards
  • 2005 – Eastern Eye newspaper presented Safia Minney with the Community Award at the annual Asian Business Awards, in recognition of her work with Asian Producer Communities
  • 2005 – Safia Minney selected as one of the world's most Outstanding Social Entrepreneurs by the Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Naked Fashion: The New Sustainable Fashion Revolution. Oxford, UK: New Internationalist. 2011. ISBN 978-1-78026-041-9. Retrieved 11 October 2017 – via Barnes & Noble. 
  2. ^ a b Woods, Kate (12 March 2011). "Safia Minney". Juno. Retrieved 11 October 2017. 
  3. ^ Nicholls, Alex; Opal, Charlotte (2005). Fair Trade: Market-Driven Ethical Consumption. London: Sage. ISBN 978-1-41290-105-5. 
  4. ^ Finer, Nadia; Finer, Emily (2011). More to Life Than Shoes: How to Kick-Start Your Career and Change Your Life. London: Hay House. ISBN 978-1-84850-250-5. 
  5. ^ "People Tree". Archived from the original on 4 March 2016. 

External links[edit]