Safia Minney

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Safia Minney MBE FRSA is a British social entrepreneur and author. She is the founder and CEO of People Tree, 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]

Safia started her career in marketing and publishing. She worked for Creative Review magazine for 4 years where she developed her passion for creativity and communications. From working in the advertising industry, Safia became excited about using the power of communications for social good by raising awareness of social and environmental issues.

After backpacking alone for 3 months between Bali and Myanmar, Safia created her own social marketing consultancy working with New Statesman and Friends of the Earth. In 1990, Safia 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]

Safia 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, Safia began producing and publishing an organic listings – the ‘green’ information she believed people needed to live a more sustainable lifestyle.

Safia 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 Safia and James’ home for nine years, gradually occupying more space than their new family. By 2000 it had grown to 17 staff members trying to coordinate 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, Safia’s first collection of clothing was made in coordination 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. Nicholls, Alex; Opal, Charlotte (2005). Fair Trade: Market-Driven Ethical Consumption. 

The initial start up was incredibly hard. Safia 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 disadvantage people in remote places, and the business costs were huge. It was a massive undertaking, but it needed to be done." Finer, Nadia; Finer, Emily (2011). More to Life Than Shoes: How to Kick-Start Your Career and Change Your Life.  [3]

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 labeling 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]

Safia is British born in 1964 to a Swiss mother and Mauritian father.[4] She grew up in a Caucasian 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 3 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.

Safia married her husband James Minney in 1989. and has two children. James 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]


External links[edit]