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The Ethical Agenda with Safia Minney

Business & Economics Podcasts

Business with Ethics


United Kingdom


Business with Ethics




Safia Minney meets Catherine Howarth

Safia speaks to Catherine Howarth, CEO of Share Action about her work to implement an Environmental, Social and Governance revolution in finance that will radically decarbonise our economy.


Safia Minney meets Dominique Palmer

Safia talks to Dominique Palmer of the UK Student Climate Network about intergenerational justice, the importance of the Green New Deal and how the movement has engaged over 500,000 young people in the fight for climate justice.


Safia Minney meets Guy Singh-Watson

Episode 17: Guy Singh-Watson Guy Singh-Watson is Founder of Riverford, the hugely successful organic vegetable producer and vegetable box delivery company. The discussion begins with the importance of farming in our society and Guy’s personal discovers of a “deep connection” to nature and desire to be “part of nature, rather than outside or above it.” They discuss George Monbiot’s recent documentary “Apocalypse Cow”. Guy explains that he is resistant to the idea of laboratory food, saying that culturally it “fills me with horror” although intellectually it would release land for re-wilding and return to biodiversity. He suggests the way forward is a mix of embracing the ways of nature, improving soil fertility and including livestock farming with “ideally no factory farmed animals and little feeding of soya to animals… a luxury as a planet we cannot afford.” Guy points out that many farmers are trying to do the right thing and don’t want to be marked out as the bad guys. He says that the climate catastrophe is not the result of agriculture but the fossil fuel industry and our insatiable demand for energy. To be demonising farmers is grossly unfair.Guy gives his ideas for creating a sustainable diet. Reducing waste in the food chain. Waste in fields has little environmental impact, but radically cutting waste from our kitchens. Eating less animal protein. We eat 1600gms meat a week in UK, We should reduce this to 600gms and encourage a vegan diet of unprocessed food. Stopping growing produce in heated glasshouses. Stopping air-freighting products. Eating seasonal, local fruit and veg. Questioning the nonsense of our economic model built on instant gratification. “The enemy of sustainability is choice”, says Guy. “We’ve been sold the message that you can have whatever you want whenever you want and retailers need to have the courage to stand up and say no. Consumers should eat seasonally," He believes that “out of a restrictive choice is born creativity and that applies in the kitchen as well.” Guy believes that contact with nature engenders a greater appreciation and desire to protect it and change our thinking. He says we should also encourage people onto farms to understand food production today. If people realised it wasn’t like 'Old MacDonald' they would be more discerning about what they buy. In addition, clearer information and tougher trading standards would help to differentiate the genuine from the false claims about food quality. This should be illegal. Some parts of the food industry mislabel products as ‘organic’ and we should challenge them more often, asking ”Who certified it? Where is the label?” Riverford communicate directly with their customers and talk about issues their farmers face in the way most farmers can’t. Guy says they are unique in that they have the privilege of being able to be honest. They also have great relationships with their suppliers supported by long term contracts. He points out that most producers are “obliged to play by the rules of a broken system” as they have only short term contracts which is the antithesis of sustainability. Riverford have 70- 80,000 customers and make 55,000 deliveries a week. Food comes from the Riverford farm, a co-operative in Devon and others around the UK and a farm in France that is important for the May-June, the months of less UK produce. They are mostly medium size family farms with which Guy prioritises long term sustainability and mutually beneficial trading relationships. 18 months ago Guy decided to sell 74% of the business to the staff, making Riverford employee owned. He explains why: “I wanted to try and create a world less dominated by greed, by the accumulation of ridiculous amounts of personal wealth for our exclusive use which contribute nothing to our happiness, but massively to the detriment of the planet and the people who should be sharing in that wealth."


Safia Minney meets Natalie Fee

Episode 16: Natalie Fee Natalie Fee is an award-winning author, environmental campaigner and founder of City to Sea - a Bristol-based non profit working to stop global plastic pollution at source.Beginning the podcast by introducing her new book ‘How to Save the World for Free’ - Natalie explains the power of individual action when it comes to healing the planet and how we can all play a part in most aspects of our lives.Describing her journey as a campaigner, Natalie tells us how seeing the trailer for the film ‘Albatross’, by the artist Chris Jordan opened her eyes to the reality of plastic pollution. The plight of the Laysan Albatross with single-use plastics lodged in their bellies, dying, moved her to the point where she could no longer sit back and do nothing.This led to the creation of a crowdfunded music video and onto campaigns in her home town of Bristol to highlight the problems of plastic in the UK’s rivers and seas.To begin with, Natalie guided City to Sea with the Switch the Stick campaign, a successful cotton bud campaign run in 2016/17 which called on all UK retailers to switch from plastic to paper stem buds, stopping over 400 tonnes a year of single-use plastic at source. City to Sea has since launched several groundbreaking campaigns achieving global recognition, including Refill - tackling single-use plastic bottles, Plastic-free periods, Don’t believe the wipe and Plastic-free travel.Natalie goes on to describe writing as her “first love” and the idea for her book; “ I wanted it to be about campaigning, to take people on the journey from plastic pollution to the other things that are going wrong in the world that we need to be aware of”.She talks about the single-use plastics directive and the importance of implementing it, how recycling is important, but reusing more so. Natalie points out that 40% of litter is plastic bottles and a deposit scheme would cut this figure substantially. It would also lead to behaviour change. She adds that we need to put value on plastic and discourage bottles being made from fossil fuel. She explains that the Terracycle scheme is good as a temporary solution, but the onus is still on the consumer and introducing extended producer responsibility through the environment bill would be a better long term solution.Natalie and Safia talk about activism. Consumers have to “keep up the pressure on supermarkets to unpackage a lot of our fruit and vegetables”. They need to lobby councillors about deposit schemes and individually reduce the amount of plastic they use.Since 1965, over 8 billion tonnes of single-use plastic produced has gone into rivers and soils. Natalie explains the solution to this is stopping it at source, especially in developing countries. “90% of the world's plastic flows out of 10 rivers around the world, mainly in Asia”. Natalie describes how working with and supporting NGOs and charities which help manage waste better is important as well as cutting our own plastic waste, 93% of which we export.Natalie explains how we get plastic out of the ocean. Using technology costs billions to clean up a fraction of plastic. She points out only 1% of ocean plastic is on the surface, 95% is on the ocean floor and 4% is on the beaches. After reducing use, the next step is to empower community beach cleans to clear up the plastics blown by wind and gathered by tide. Microplastics in the water present a huge challenge, but as Natalie discovered through researching for her book, there are now “more microplastics on our land than going into the sea.” She explains that the microplastics which seep into the water supply when we wash our clothes end up as sludge cake which is spread onto soil as a nutrient.Safia and Natalie talk about plastic in beauty products. “Pretty much every foundation, lipstick, mascara, eye shadow, it’s all got plastic in it unless it’s organic and specifically mineral based". Organic makeup comes with a higher price tag,


Safia Minney meets John Steel

Episode 15: John Steel Safia talks to John Steel, CEO of Cafédirect, about the iconic & pioneering Fairtrade coffee brand that put Fairtrade into our supermarkets in the 1990s.John explains how starting his career with Rowntree, a company established on Quaker traditions, grounded him in the guiding principle that business should be about improving society and not just about making money. Rowntree was acquired by Nestle in 1988. “We need to find a way of getting the world to change more rapidly and have generosity of spirit that human beings should have,” says John.Cafédirect began in 1991 as a response to the 1989 global collapse in coffee prices and was the first brand to go into the supermarkets, promoted jointly by Oxfam, Traidcraft, Equal Exchange and Twin Trading.It also launched the Fairtrade mark, from which hundreds of products and product categories have followed. It has grown to £14 million turnover, growing 10% in 2019, led by its’ popular Machu Picchu roast filter coffee and a premium range launched with Waitrose. The company works with approximately 600,000 small-scale coffee farmers. John says “the environment is now so positive for businesses like Cafédirect where the consumer is increasingly saying ‘I want to choose to use my money to make a difference’.”In the future, John explains that he would like to raise awareness of how business can be done better, to influence other companies to buy in the right way and “work closely with farm communities to make a profound difference on the environment and their livelihoods, as the future of food and drink depends on that.”He recalls visiting a small, struggling co-operative near the ruins of MachuPicchu and seeing how the Fairtrade business model can make a real difference. Cafédirect were able to support the community with a loan, enabling them to not only survive, but flourish and establish a reliable income stream and go on to win an export award for quality coffee.He explains that Cafédirect work through more than 40 co-operatives , varying from small groups of 300 families to many thousands. The company doesn’t want farmers to be dependent on Cafédirect so their business is a small percentage of the farmer’s total income. John wishes that more coffee companies would buy coffee from the farmers on Fairtrade terms.The Fairtrade model ensures farmers get a minimum price guarantee and the co-operative adds a premium to improve communities. John points out the importance of this guarantee in a volatile market - coffee prices can go down to as low as 88c per kg , much lower than the $1.35 farmers need to subsist. “A consistent reasonable price is a basic requirement in a moral society.”John believes that there is still room for consumers to understand the real connection between the coffee farmers and their role as ‘stewards of nature’. He says “Cafédirect is a pioneering business and change needs to occur with greater scale and impact. Businesses managed properly can mobilise consumers just as David Attenborough mobilised consumers against plastic waste. The business model Cafédirect uses is successful. When you talk to a student about the different business models you can adopt, trading on fair trade terms, buying organically, working directly with small holder farmers and working with them to help them think about how to manage the environment, every single person in the room will go away thinking ‘why should I buy anything else?’”John admits some frustration competing with a growing number of Fair Trade and ethical labels and advocates one mark which guarantees ‘good’ business. As the first coffee company to become a ‘B Corp’, and working closely with social enterprise UK, he sees Cafédirect leading the way, “I see a collaborative business model that is looking at how we improve the lives of farmers and setting an example of how business can lead change.”John and Safia finish by discussing thought leadership and systems change in the light of the events of ...


Safia Minney meets Julia Barrett

Episode 14: Julia Barrett From the Spirella Building in Letchworth Garden City, Safia talks about sustainable construction with Julia Barrett, Chief Sustainability Officer of Willmott Dixon. Julia was Business Green Leaders’ Sustainability Executive of the Year (2018) and Women in Construction’s Green Leader in 2017. “The built environment contributes around 40% of the UK’s carbon emissions” and as such the construction industry plays an important role in going carbon zero. Julia explains how Willmott Dixon rises to the challenge of creating buildings to reduce emissions and maximise efficiency which helps people using them reduce their energy usage, save money and improve their quality of life. They discuss how green construction can reduce social inequality. Safia learns about Passivhaus, the “state of the art” sustainable building standard. It ensures you build highly-insulated buildings with the “right materials to very high quality standards of workmanship and to high standards of design which means you use minimal energy and you are able to maintain a stable living environment. Some examples of that have been spectacular.”Willmott Dixon is a member of the Supply Chain Sustainability School which provides training for contractors to ensure a high standard of workmanship across all sectors. Safia and Julia discuss the Climate Emergency and Julia recognises that Willmott Dixon and society as a whole are being challenged to do more. “Let’s be bolder, let’s be faster, let’s be more ambitious. The XR strikes showed support from public and hosting COP 26 will lead to commitments. Not doing it is not an option.” Willmott Dixon had a 2020 strategy to reduce waste, increase efficiency, and transform the lives of young people. These goals have been met and Julia discusses their new targets, including climate positive operations and net zero carbon buildings. Julia says Willmott Dixon is “Using the climate challenge as a lens through which to drive innovation”. She continues, “what we need to do is push the envelope and make it non-optional.” She explains how Willmott Dixon introduces sustainability to customers. Willmott Dixon has won many awards, including the Queen’s award for Enterprise: Sustainable Development (2019 and 2014), Social Mobility (2018) and Construction News’ 2019 Environmental Contractor of the Year. Julia outlines her ambitions for the future. These include creating a built environment that adds value, enhances lives, and creates a better world for future generations. She wants to show this can be done and “demonstrate the art of the possible”. Julia believes that as a family business Willmott Dixon has an advantage. It’s a benefit, as the company is not beholden to shareholders with different values. She points out that leadership and culture determine the pace of change, not technology. We are “change agents who turn the ‘what’ into the ‘how’”. Safia and Julia discuss the global opportunities for sustainable construction, the inequality of carbon consumption across cultures and the implications of global heating. Julia finishes on a positive note pointing out the glimmer of hope represented by oil multinationals realising they need to add renewables into their portfolios. She concludes, “they need to do a hell of a lot more” but “a journey of 1000 miles always starts with the first few steps”. REPORTS & OTHER LINKS Wilmott Dixon Projects:Sutton Passivhaus schoolGeorge Davies CentreQueen’s Award for Sustainable Development:World Wildlife Fund HQ, Woking The role of Passivhaus buildings in the fight against climate changePassivehouse in 90 seconds World Green Building Council The world we made – Jonathon Porritt


Safia Minney meets Jonathon Porritt

Episode 13: Jonathon Porritt Jonathon Porritt is Co-Founder of Forum for the Future, formerly Director of Friends of the Earth, and a prominent environmentalist and writer. He talks to Safia about why it’s taken so long to ACT on the climate crisis and how the responsibility lies with oil and gas companies and governments who have hidden the truth from the public and their shareholders. From the late 80s onwards the oil companies put hundreds of millions of dollars into so called think tanks and universities with the specific intention of obscuring the science and making people doubt what the science was already completely clear about in the late 1980s, and it was horribly effective.” Jonathon points out the legal consequences of this. “The wheels of justice turn slowly but they turn and right now in the USA there are a number of very significant class actions being brought against the biggest oil companies in particular Exon Mobil, Shell, BP, Chevron, and the nature of the court cases is that they obscured the scientific knowledge they had themselves, from their shareholders. It’s not illegal to lie in the USA, apparently its ok, but it is illegal not to share material information with your shareholders so that they they know the risks associated with their continuing investment in your company. So all of these court cases now are focusing on the fact that from the late 1970s onwards all of these companies had commissioned first class scientific work of their own into the implications of the accelerated burning of fossil fuels, they all knew what the consequences would be, so these people are out and out criminals, there’s no question about that”.Jonathan explains how transport run on renewable energy is a viable alternative and how as renewable energy becomes cheaper fossil fuels will be left in the ground, and also why nuclear power is not a viable option in the energy mix if we are to look at “inter-generational justice” He says, “this intergenerational justice issue with nuclear is incredible, we don’t know what to do with nuclear waste…, the next generation will have to pay,.. this is so immoral” Forum for the Future has been working with businesses for 25 years and Jonathon explains how even those companies who have invested heavily in sustainability (IKEA, Unilever and many other companies) will be unable to make a difference alone, only government can do this by setting regulation. The key is “a proper price on carbon…it’s incredibly simple….a tax of 50-60 Euros per tonne of what is used in the supply chain would create a mechanism to reduce carbon emissions…the only obstacle is the politics”. Jonathon discusses the role of the individual in cutting carbon emissions; nothing will change without a decarbonised economy, we can think about what we eat, how we get about and how many children we have. If we can do that then that’s big and it will send the right message to business and government. More importantly, we can use our political influence and encourage young people to get involved. He particularly applauds the School Strikes, Greta Thunberg and XR in changing the nature of political debate. "Hope in Hell", Jonathon’s new book which will be published in June 2020 outlines the impact of climate change on our lives whilst offering hope in the form of technological solutions and the power of civil action to force politicians to change and engage. He is candid about his own emotions of hope and despair and explains how his anger sustains his activity along with his vision of the future for his children. He explains how he is hopeful rather than optimistic, as “the forces of evil, who do not want to see our economy fundamentally transformed are hugely powerful.” Safia asks Jonathon about his views on the fast fashion industry. He doesn’t mince his words “the clothing industry is a disgrace. They know what the consequences of cheap clothes really are.” Fashion companies should be pushing government for more reg...


Safia Minney meets Satish Kumar

Episode 12: Satish Kumar Satish Kumar is a “Living Legend”, author of 9 books, activist, co-founder and originator of the Schumacher College and editor of Resurgence and Ecologist magazine.Safia talks to him about his new book “Elegant Simplicity, the Art of Living Well” which advocates, “Living simply is a prerequisite for sustainability”. They discuss how “we cannot separate the personal from the political” if we as a society are to create a systems change that will redress the balance of wealth and natural resources.Satish explains “Everybody is a special kind of leader” - we all have a role to play and we can develop courage to lead by trusting ourselves. He discusses the importance of trust in building a sustainable future and strengthening relationships.The courses at Schumacher College are bound by the theme of the earth and the unity of humans and nature.“Nature is not a resource of the economy it is resource of life.”REPORTS & OTHER LINKSElegant Simplicity, the Art of Living WellSchumacher CollegeResurgence & Ecologist Magazine


Safia Minney meets Sarah Corbett

EPISODE 11: Sarah Corbett Sarah Corbett, was an “activist in the womb.” She talks to Safia about growing up campaigning for social change and the experiences which led her to found the Craftivist Collective – a combination of craft and activism which has grown to be a global movement. Sarah discusses how the study of neuroscience informed the philosophy behind the movement and how quiet, handcrafted persuasion has succeeded in engaging “power makers” when louder forms of protest have not. The 10 point Craftivist Manifesto reflects the core element of craftivism which she sees a tool for “thinking about what we do and how we can be part of the solution.” Dream making is her current project, encouraging us all to hand stitch our hopes for the future. REPORTS & OTHER LINKS Craftivist Collective How to be a Craftivist: The Art of Gentle Protest


Safia Minney meets Michael Gidney

Episode 10: Michael Gidney In a splendid banana covered meeting room, Mike Gidney, CEO of the Fairtrade Foundation, celebrates 25 years of Fairtrade in the UK with Safia. They discuss the beginnings of the now-ubiquitous Fairtrade Mark which guarantees a better deal for producers through minimum economic, social and environmental standards. With 1.7 million farmers, workers and miners over 3 continents and 125 countries selling Fairtrade products it has seen tremendous growth, however, there is still much to be done to take the concept of Fair Trade to scale. There are “long, dirty supply chains which are bad for the planet and expose workers to untold injustice” and it’s still a “buyer dictates” world. Safia and Mike discuss how a trade overhaul and better regulation would contribute to eradicating “exploitative trade”, how CEOs should be incentivized by social justice indicators and how localization, not globalization can help producers and businesses to be sustainable. REPORTS & OTHER LINKS Fair Trade FoundationFacebookTwitterInstagram#Fairtrade25@fairtradeuk @FairtradFoundationTraidcraftEthical Trade InitiativeBusiness Declares a Climate Emergency


Safia Minney meets Cindy Berman

Episode 9: Cindy Berman Cindy Berman is the Head of Modern Slavery Strategy at the Ethical Trade Initiative, a leading alliance of companies, trade unions and NGOs that promotes respect for workers' rights around the globe.Safia and Cindy discuss the role of business, government and citizens in transforming worker’s rights around the globe and how the ETI is spearheading the change with it’s Base Code of 9 labour standards protecting the rights of workers.They discuss what has changed since...


Safia Minney meets Bevis Watts

Episode 8: Bevis Watts Bevis Watts is challenging the way banking is done and championing ethical finance as chief executive of Triodos Bank UK, the UK branch of one of the biggest ethical banks in Europe.Safia and Bevis discuss the importance of regulating investment in fast fashion and pressing the government for policies which incentivize investment in environmental causes. How currently banks “could collapse with the exposure they’ve got to fossil fuels” and how London, as a major...


Safia Minney meets XR Boycott Fashion & XR Fashion Action

EPISODE 7: XR BOYCOTT FASHION & XR FASHION ACTION In this moving interview with XR Boycott Fashion and XR Fashion Action, Safia explores the response of the fashion industry to the “diabolical wake up call” of the Climate and Ecological emergency facing us today. Talking to Safia are: Bel Jacobs, member of XR Boycott Fashion team, former fashion editor for Metro, sustainable fashion writer and speaker, climate change and animal rights activist. Alice Wilby, member of XR Boycott Fashion team...


Safia Minney meets Tamsin Lejeune

EPISODE 6: TAMSIN LEJEUNE In this weeks podcast, Tamsin Lejeune, CEO of Common Objective, and creator of the Ethical Fashion Forum, talks to Safia about the creation of Common Objective, an online platform which helps to connect and scale sustainable fashion businesses. She discusses her many initiatives and work with major retail names and designers, the emerging rental clothing business, Guatemalan box jackets, and what she feels are the next steps in moving both brands and consumers...


Safia Minney meets Clare Farrell

EPISODE 5: CLARE FARRELL Safia talks to Co–founder of Extinction Rebellion Clare Farrell about her personal journey from being “embedded in the machine” of retail fashion to leading the hugely influential activist movement against climate collapse. She tells us what motivates her to go on hunger strike and sit on motorway roundabouts at 6am on a cold winters morning and how Extinction Rebellion came into being. We hear how XR uses it’s unique model of organisation to raise awareness and...


Safia Minney meets Rob Hopkins

EPISODE 4: ROB HOPKINS In this podcast we learn just how good life could be after fossil fuels. Could we transform society to one that would give us the life we all dream of? In this interview, Rob does a pretty good job of convincing me that whilst the climate crisis is real, it is only as big as the crisis of imagination. The Transition Towns (TT) movement started in 2005 in Totnes, Devon to promote solutions and prove what is possible post fossil fuel and solve a whole lot of other social...


Safia Minney meets Caryn Franklin

EPISODE 3: CARYN FRANKLIN Caryn Franklin is a mate and a pioneering voice for gender equality, body and image diversity and discusses the reasons that perpetuate bias and injustice. We go beyond fashion... I caught up with Caryn to talk to her about her work in the advertising and communications industry to bring it out of the dark ages. How brands get it wrong when they don’t represent their customers and the fall of photographer Terry Richardson and the allegations of sexual misconduct...


Safia Minney meets Paul Allen

EPISODE 2: PAUL ALLEN In episode two, Safia meets Paul Allen, project leader for the Zero Carbon Britain at the Centre for Alternative Technology in Wales. He talks to Safia about the science behind reaching a zero carbon target by 2030 and how we can all become “Climate Change Makers”. Paul Allen has been working on identifying and providing solutions for reducing carbon emissions for 30 years. The reports from the Zero Carbon Britain Team in the last 10 years include “Rethinking the...


Safia Minney meets George Monbiot

EPISODE 1: GEORGE MONBIOT In our first episode, Safia meets one of the UK’s best known environmentalists and activists George Monbiot. They discuss his talk at the Oxford Brookes University Annual GPES Lecture, "Environmental Breakdown and How to Stop It." George Monbiot is an author, Guardian columnist and environmental campaigner. His best selling books include Feral: Rewilding the Land, Sea and Human Life and Heat: How to stop the Planet Burning. His latest is Out of the Wreckage: a New...