Ethical Entrepreneurship: Safia Minney

Safia Minney is founder of Fair Trade and environmental fashion and lifestyle label People Tree.

Safia turned a lifelong interest in environmental, trade and social justice issues from a lifestyle into a Fair Trade business and is regarded as one of the worlds, if not the worlds, foremost commentators of Fair Trade in the fashion industry. Safia Minney also instigated World Fair Trade Day for which she still runs the secretariat from her Japanese office.

Safia Minney’s background is in marketing and publishing. She developed a strong eye for visual content during her 4 years at Creative Review magazine where she also developed a passion for promoting social and environmental awareness and action through advertising and communications.

After backpacking alone for 3 months between Bali andMyanmar, Safia decided to use her experience to help NGOs build their profiles.

In 1990, she moved from London to Tokyo with her husband, where she turned her interests into an NGO – Global Village which later became a company.

Working with two university students from Yokohama University, Safia began producing and publishing a small free leaflet that provided 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 Global Village became a member of IFAT the International Fair Trade Association.

Global Village operated from Safia’s home for nine years, gradually occupying more and more space. By 2000 it had grown to 17 staff members trying to coordinate catalogue production, sales to 500 shops, events and campaigns and it was time to take a commercial office space.

In 1995 Fair Trade Company was formed as a limited company and a shop was opened in the fashionable Jiyugaoka district, in Tokyo. In 1997 Safia Minney added a Fair Trade Fashion Collection, using eco-textiles, including organic cotton, to the products sold by Fair Trade Company, and the first People Tree collection was launched. People Tree was working closely with textile artisan groups to help them meet environmental standards and develop their market potential, with two full-time designers at People Tree.

Safia works, on average, a 14-16 hour day, and travels two weeks a month visiting producer groups, speaking at conferences, attending seminars and managing both the UK and Tokyo offices.

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