our wahine toa: marion wood

March 4, 2019 at 4:39 PM

This International Women’s Day we celebrate our founder Marion Wood who, despite being well past the official retirement age, seems to have boundless energy for campaigning on issues that promote real change in the world!

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Marion has been passionate about fair trade long before it was fashionable and helped set up the Wellington Trade Aid shop over 40 years ago. In 1975 Marion and Jim with the support of others, set up one of the earliest organic farms in the country Common Property which they still own and manage to the present day.

In 1991 they established the first Commonsense store which was born out of a desire to provide people with high quality and nutritious food in a culture where it was increasingly apparent that the conventional food industry had the opposite intention – food was generally becoming less nutritious with a greater number of chemical additives and consequentially more harmful to the public with growing rates of obesity, diabetes and food allergies and intolerances.

"At Commonsense we are modelling a different way of doing business. Our model is one that puts the fundamental needs of people, rather than profit, first – a stable job with good condition; safe nutritious food and consumer products; and an environment we can thrive in but which will also be in good shape for future generations" (Marion Wood)

Marion Wood Commonsense Organics

Marion managing the Wellington City Shop in 2002


More broadly than organics and fair trade, Marion also has a strong commitment to sustainability and is the driving force behind many of Commonsense’s stances such as the refusal to provide plastic bags at the checkout, the sourcing of BPA-free till receipts, our new home compostable packaging and the company’s commitment to Equal Pay. She is currently championing other issues within the company such as Living Wage accreditation and the commitments we have undertaken as part of the New Plastics Economy – a global commitment to eliminate plastic pollution at source.

Understanding that one of the biggest threats to real change is the ‘perception of change’, which within an environmental context is known as “greenwashing” she is a force to be reckoned with to anyone going down this track.  She is a challenge to organisations who are opportunistically looking to jump on the sustainability bandwagon without demonstrating an authentic commitment to the principles that underlie the movement. This staunch position can sometimes leave her on the outer with those who take a softer and more lenient approach to principles that Marion believes in wholeheartedly and without compromise. But as history often shows, it is the work of the truly committed, that drives meaningful and lasting change.

She is a founding member of the Organic Traders Association of NZ and currently serves as Chair, she is also on the board of Fair Trade Wellington City Trust and on the judging panel for the Sustainable Business Network’s annual awards. She is a former Vice Chair of SBN and was Chair of the Board of the Central Region for several years.  She also served on the Executive Board of the Fair Trade Association of Australia and New Zealand.

Her collaborative style fosters meaningful partnerships with organisations with shared values such as working with the Jane Goodall Foundation on the campaign to ban plastic bags and the World Wildlife Fund on their current climate change initiatives. She is also one of the driving forces behind Organic Week, coming up in April.

chocolate bar

Marion & Jim discovering their faces were on the cover of a commemorative Wellington Chocolate Factory bar of chocolate


Within Commonsense Marion drives the charitable initiatives undertaken by the company including being the primary supporter of the Porirua School Gardens scheme. It has always been important to the company to profit share with its community, in fact sharing with the community was important even before the company was making any profit at all!

It is no exaggeration to say that Marion works every single day to live up to the core values of our company – organic food, fair trade and social responsibility and environmental sustainability – and if we all put in half as much effort to achieving these things as she did, the world we live in would undoubtedly be a very different place!

To hear Marion (and Jim) speak further about the values they live by please take a look at the short film on our website.