People Tree is a sustainable brand per excellence

Originally written June 3, 2016

People Tree exemplifies a sustainable fashion brand per excellence. And with such a fitting name to boot, who is not a tree person after all. What makes People Tree exciting is that the garments are crafted, hand-made, hand-woven, hand-embroidered, and hand-printed. People Tree brand is the model for slow fashion and a cyclical sustainable business. The People Tree fashion palette is simple, clean, understated, artisanal chic, a picturesque array of quality wardrobe essentials for women, men, and children. Each collection Classic elements like slim classic silhouette. Traditional skills such as weaving, embroidery, hand knitting and block printing add beauty to modern silhouettes and have the added benefit of providing livelihoods for artisans in rural areas across the developing countries.

Safia Minney, its founder, is a pioneer in the fair-trade movement, working on first launched Global Village NGO in 1991 living in Japan and soon after a fashion label Fair Trade, noting a need to educate her community about fair trade movement. Building on its success in Japan, she began the People Tree label in 2001 in the UK, championing fair trade and sustainable ethos. People Tree’s has partnered with Rajlakshmi Cotton Mills, an organic garment manufacturing company in India that arranges fair deals for the farmers and workers and follows sustainable values. An integral player in the fair fashion movement, the brand works on various projects such as Swallows, a fair trade initiative in Thanapar India, and celebrities collaborations with celebrities such Emma Watson, Vivienne Westwood, and Zandra Rhodes to highlight inequalities for garment workers in the developing world such as those shown in the Bengladesh Textile Industry.

Safia Minney has written a valuable book about Slow Fashion

which includes insightful interviews with ecologically-driven designers and activists, available on Amazon.

image courtesy of

image courtesy of

What is a Social business?

A social business is a company that is between non-profit and for profit. That is a simple explanation of what a social business is.

Now you know.

Do you remember when you were a young idealist, and you figured out world peace?

When I was a young teenager dreaming of a peaceful world, when I first understood how the world economy worked, I thought that companies should give 20 percent of their profits back to society. It was just a number to play with. I am not a macroeconomic expert. Now I think it should be 50%. Maybe it should be 80%.

The truth is we need to shift our profiteering ways and to apply sharing concepts in our system to counter a number of societal issues such as over-consumption and over-production which have led to pollution and exploitation.

First, part of the reason to apply the social business model is that the planet’s resources are collectively owned. Any company that depletes resource are responsible for that impact on everyone.

Second, if the world is in harmony,  perhaps a profit-oriented business model makes sense. But if it is not, then a good business model makes sense. A good business takes care of people and the planet first then profits last. Or profits just enough and the rest is placed back for the good of people.

This concept is named social business. It should not be confused with a social media business. 

Muhammad Yunus formalized the concept of Social Business beautifully. And for this, he won the Nobel Peace Prize along with Grameen Bank founded by Hans Reitz. Here is how they defined in this long definition of what a social business is:

“A social business is a non-dividend business whose aim is to solve a social problem through business methods. It is different from both a traditional personal profit-making business and a not-for-profit organization.

All profits from operation of the business must go toward achieving one or more social objectives in addition to covering costs of the company. No personal gain is desired by its investors. A social business can address problems such as providing healthcare, housing, and financial services for the poor, nutrition for malnourished children, providing safe drinking water, introducing renewable energy and much more in a business way.

Seven principles of social business:

  1. Business objective will be to overcome poverty, or one or more problems (such as education, health, technology access, and environment) which threaten people and society; not profit maximization.
  2. Financial and economic sustainability
  3. Investors get back their investment amount only. No dividend is given beyond investment money
  4. When investment amount is paid back, company profit stays with the company for expansion and improvement
  5. Gender sensitive and environmentally conscious
  6. Workforce gets market wage with better working conditions
  7. do it with joy”


Numerous companies have adopted the #SocialBusiness model because it makes good sense. It can be applied to brick and mortar businesses, to giant tech companies, to institutions, to entrepreneurial or artistic activities.



Plant Trees, pretty please

One of many solutions to combat the global climate crisis is to plant trees. Yes, reforestation is better than deforestation. However, it is important to know how forests work. Here are only a few key facts to bear in mind

  1. It is not simple to create a forest without some expertise.
  2. It has to be the right trees planted in the right place. This is because some plants are invasive that compete for space. And planting trees in the right soil is fundamental. So knowledge of forest biomes and forest ecosystems is needed.
  3. Trees and plants not only convert CO2 into sugar for their energy but also stores some C02 in their reserves. Quite surprisingly for many, through deforestation, trees release stored CO2 when cut. They shelter a variety of life forms and terrestrial habitats being interconnected with the environment.
  4. Trees communicate with each other through their spidery network of roots as seen in the documentary Intelligent Trees featuring the research of Suzanne Simard. Cutting down forests destroy established networks that have taken years to build.
  5. Healthy forests help in reducing the desertification of the land because of their capacity to retain water.

How to stop fashion pollution

Let’s stop fashion pollution together.

Slow down production of toxic fabrics.

First the facts
Here are some of the awful facts to be aware regarding fashion waste.
It is breathtaking when you think that 150 000 000 000 (150 trillion) clothing products are made each year.
2.5 trillion pounds of used clothing are dumped into landfills every year.
2 million metric tons of CO2 emissions are produced on an annual basis, second only to the oil industry
Fashion accounts for 10 % of the world’s carbon footprint.
70 t0 100 million trees are cut down each year to make rayon and modal cellulose fabric
The volume of water consumed to produce clothing is 70 billion cubic meters and will increase by 50% by 2030.
As of 2016, the amount of CO2 levels in the atmosphere was 20% above what is safe. Toxic emissions continue and predictions for CO2 emissions levels will be 2.8 billion tons per year by 2030.

Negative Impact of Fashion on the planet
Fast fashion plays a huge part of the fashion pollution crisis.
Clothes on the rack are now even cheaper and more disposable than ever with the big retailers running on 52 micro seasons rather than by four seasons. Termed as ‘fast fashion’, the demand for the latest look fast and cheap is taking its toll on the environment, recklessly using up natural resources and mindlessly throwing toxins and chemicals into the waterways and soil system.
How to stop fashion pollution: SOLUTIONS
The first stage of the eco revolution is that consumer need apply their purchasing power to signal to industry to adopt sustainable options on one side.
One the other side, industry needs to simply stop all polluting behaviors and adopt sustainable practices.

Slow down consumption.
1) Say no thanks to fast fashion.
2) Say no thanks to plastic.
3) Stop shopping. The challenge is not to buy anything new for the longest period of time, start with a month then a season and try for a year.
4) Shop less. If you shop, restrict your purchases to exactly what you are missing. Make your shopping choices count.
5) Buy sustainable products. Select durable, ecologically made and produced products that last for years.
6) Buy natural fabrics. Choose apparel made of natural fabrics, such as linen, wool, hemp or other lifestyle products made from sustainable and biodegradable materials. Reduce purchase of cotton due its water consumption issues.
7) Buy from eco and fair trade and transparent companies in your city
8) Say no thanks to packaging
9) Buy from local designers and makers
10) Buy used / second hand products
11) Buy fair trade
12) Wash less (reduce water usage)
13) Practice slow fashion
1) Utilize sustainable materials in production
2) No plastics
3) No Toxins
4) Practice Zero-Waste
5) Practice Cycle Economy
6) Reduce Packaging / No Packaging
7) Reduce Excess production by creating the minimal quantity
8) Change retail model to incorporate recycling practices
9) Follow sustainable model companies such as Patagonia, Stella McCartney, H&M Conscious side
10) Practice Fair Trade
(Black Friday: Greenpeace calls timeout for fast fashion)