Safia Minney MBE
People Tree Founder
Safia Minney is founder and director of Fair Trade and sustainable fashion and lifestyle label People Tree. Safia has turned a life-long interest in environmental, trade and social justice issues from a lifestyle into an award winning Fair Trade business. Safia has authored many publications and articles about Fair Trade in Japan and the UK; she also photographs her own catalogues.
Business and Pleasure DO mix:
Safia Minney’s background is in marketing and publishing. She worked for Creative Review magazine for 4 years where she developed a strong eye for visuals and advertising. She became passionate about the need for social marketing, ‘green consumerism’ and the new economics of Fair Trade. After backpacking alone for 3 months between Bali and Myanmar, Safia decided to use her experience to help social causes and environmental organizations build their profile. In 1989, she moved from London to Tokyo where she turned her interests into a campaigning organization, Global Village, and then launched People Tree Japan, which is now the highest profile Fair Trade company in Japan.
In the beginning:
Working with Japanese friends and university students Safia Minney taught herself Japanese and worked for the first Body Shop in Tokyo. She began researching and publishing information providing consumers with environmental and organic listings – the ‘green’ information she believed people needed. Before long, Safia had four, full-time staff members working from her home in order to carry out the growing activities of Global Village. In 1996 People Tree became a member of WFTO (The Wold Fair Trade Organization).
Global Village and People Tree
Global Village and People Tree operated from Safia’s home for nine years, gradually occupying more and more space. By 2000 it had grown to 17 staff members designing 600 products each year, coordinating catalogue production, sales to 300 shops, events and campaigns (and getting two children to bed); it was time to take a commercial office space!
People Tree takes shape . . .
In 1995 the first People Tree store was opened in the fashionable Jiyugaoka district in Tokyo. People Tree is the largest Fair Trade brand in Japan and Safia is widely recognised as a leader in corporate social responsibility and as a leading social entrepreneur.
In 1997 Safia Minney added a Fair Trade Fashion Collection using eco-textiles, including organic cotton, to the Fair Trade and organic food and interiors business. People Tree is now working closely with cotton farmers and artisans in 12 developing countries to help them meet Fair trade and environmental standards and help them to overcome barriers to trade. Today, People Tree has ten full-time designers and technicians on the team, which consists of 40 staff members in Tokyo and 25 in London.
People Tree designs, manufactures and markets its own label and works in collaboration with high profile, international designers like Orla Kiely and Bora Asku. People Tree has worked with actress Emma Watson from Harry Potter to launch a Fair Trade fashion collection for young people. People Tree is now stocked in 500 stores around the world and runs its own online and mail order business.
Safia was in Japan when the earthquake struck and is rebuilding her business and helps where possible.
In September 20004, Safia Minney was selected as one of the world’s most ‘Outstanding Social Entrepreneurs’ by the Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship. She has regularly attended Davos.
The Schwabees are practical, results –orientated innovators who set in motion a process whereby the poor become agents of change and self-determination. Social entrepreneurs use business and innovation revenue models to stimulate social inclusion.
In April 2005 Eastern Eye Newspaper presented Safia with the Community Award at the annual Asian Business Awards, in recognition of her work with Asian Communities.
In 2006, Safia was named Social Entrepreneur of the Year in the Edge Upstart Awards in the UK and was shortlisted for the Triodos Bank Social Entrepreneur Award and the CBI’s First Women Awards.
In 2008 Safia was a finalist in the Women in Ethical Business Award.
In 2008 Cosmopolitan awarded People Tree their Most Ethical Fashion Website Award.
In 2008 People Tree won the best eco-fashion website at the Green Web Awards.
In 2009 People Tree won the Observer Ethical Fashion Award.
In 2009 Safia Minney was awarded an MBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours.
In 2010 People Tree was awarded the Most Sustainable Fashion Brand at the Global Fashion Awards in New York.
A family affair:
Safia Minney is British born with a Swiss mother and Mauritian father, so she is international in all ways, not just in business.
Safia lived in Japan for 17 years with her husband, James, an investment banker who joined her at People Tree 5 years ago.
Safia works, on average, a 14-16 hour day and travels extensively visiting producer groups, speaking at conferences, attending seminars and managing both the UK and Tokyo offices. People Tree and Fair Trade is a full-time job, a lifetime commitment and an absolute passion.
Speaking topics include:
Entrepreneurship, Environment, Ethics, Globalization, Innovation, Human Rights, Inspiration, Lifestyle, Marketing, PR, Retail, Social Enterprise, Social Development, Trade and Industry, Women in Business, Corporate Social Responsibility, Design, Leadership.