World Fair Trade Day 2017 | A Q&A With Safia Minney

12 May 2017

An annual celebration, World Fair Trade Day 2017 takes place on 13 May, positing the campaign  ‘Be An Agent for Change’. Occurring across five continents, fair traders are joined by consumers, policy makers and advocates to mark the importance of fair trade as a solution to trade injustices and imbalances of power in the supply chain. The goal is to achieve sustainable development and work towards a fairer world.

To learn more about this day and its goals, we spoke to keynote speaker Safia Minney, the founder and director of pioneering Fair Trade and sustainable fashion and lifestyle brand People Tree. She shares with us her passion for social change and inspiring companies to tap into the ‘ethical space’ of consumerism in order to build a brand that is both sustainable and profitable.

You helped initiate World Fair Trade Day. How does it aim to raise awareness about sustainable development, poverty eradication and social justice?

Fair Trade has been the most significant global movement that has set the agenda and “tested and proven” that another way of business is possible.  It has set the agenda and galvanised the sustainable development, social justice and poverty reduction debate.  It has also led the movement calling for corporate responsibility and accountability.

As People Tree’s Founder and CEO, we were already running World Fair Trade Day campaigns in Japan, together with European and US Fair Trade organisations, showing how fairer trade makes a huge difference to people’s lives and community development.  Helping to prevent child labour by helping children attend school and escape poverty; supporting women’s economic independence who have been abandoned by their husbands; and how a strong partnership in trade can help Fair Trade suppliers invest in environmental initiatives.  What is clear is that Fair Trade works, it is not top down and that we need more of it.

Safia is passionate that Fair Trade is another way of doing business successfully

When I led the initiative to form a recognised World Fair Trade Day in 1999, endorsed by the World Fair Trade Organisation, other Fair Trade companies quickly supported me and many became national coordination offices for their countries.  After a short time, there were over 3000 events in over 30 countries around the world from breakfasts made with Fair Trade ingredients, fair trade fashion shows, debates, events, producers meeting with consumers, supported by media, politicians and key leaders, influencers and celebrities. This has led to heightened awareness and the Modern Slavery Act, where companies of over £36mn per annum, are obliged to report on what they are doing to eradicate slavery from their supply chains.  It has also helped shape the debate on sustainability and prove that a new economics approach is possible.

You, yourself, are a powerful voice for sustainable fashion as the Founder and Director of People Tree, the first international fashion company to be certified 100% Fair Trade by the WFTO. What inspired you to set this up?

I was fed up with supporting bad business.  I had worked in advertising and media.  I knew the importance of good communications and design.  I set up People Tree to prove another way of doing business is possible.  I wanted to make People Tree a one stop place to shop in Japan for all your ethical shopping.  Today we are the most visible Fair Trade brand in Japan.  I look forward in my new role as managing Director of Po-Zu, to make it the go to ethical footwear brand with our amazing team.  I don’t want to spend any of my money supporting a bad company when today it’s so easy to dress ethical top to toe and find a green solution to most of the things that I need to buy from organic food, green energy to eco holidays.

What’s the key to creating a sustainable business model?

Think triple bottom line. Profit, Social and Environmental.  The Sustainable Development Goals are built from the Fair Trade standards and largely reflected in the ETI base code.  That’s a start to doing business sustainably.

Safia with her new book - Slave to Fashion - which aims to help businesses understand how to go about investigating their supply chain

How can we all strive to ‘Be An Agent For Change’ in today’s world on an everyday level?

It’s never been easier with the internet.  Shopping from the ethical pioneers like, People Tree, Po-Zu , Riverford Organics, Ecotricity; etc.  Many people are joining campaigns like World Fair Trade Day, Fashion Revolution, Clean Clothes Campaign and introducing the issues to their friends. Progressive businesses are lending their support, leading the way with cross peer industry initiatives and cleaning up their sourcing as they do so.  This involves educating their customers too..something that I pioneered in the Fair Trade movement.  It’s called Ethical Branding ..but frankly I don’t like the branding should go to the core of the business which means directly to the story of the people who make the products that you market.  More and more people want to be part of the solution, not the problem. Whether they are consumers or senior employees of companies.

Can you tell us about your new book Slave to Fashion?

I researched and wrote Slave to Fashion to help understand modern slavery and human trafficking.  I think that it's a good read for anyone in business to understand how to go about investigating their supply chain.  There are many great initiatives out there and ETI and HULT/ Ashbridge are doing a great job also at sharing best practice.  It is about educating senior management and implementing a different approach to planning and communications. CEOs and Board Directors are becoming increasingly aware of the risks that their business operations .  They are also becoming the main driver of change.

For further information or to book Safia Minney, call us on +44 (0)20 7607 7070 or email

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