Fairtrade big winner as ethical shopping grows

Fairtrade big winner as ethical shopping grows
Shoppers have remained keen to buy green over the last few years, particularly when it comes to grocery items (image from iStockphoto.com)

By Jon Whiteaker - 09:54AM - Thu 30th December 2010

Consumer spending on green products and services increased by 18 per cent during the last two years of economic uncertainty, according to a report published today.

It had been feared that the rising trend for ethical shopping would be curbed by tightening personal budgets following the recent global recession but The Co-operative Bank’s annual Ethical Consumerism Report suggests the opposite.

Although only making up a fraction of the £700 billion annual consumer spend, ethical purchases totalled £43.2 billion last year, up from £36.5 billion in 2007.

Tim Franklin, Chief Operating Office at The Co-operative Financial Services, said: “This annual report clearly shows that the growth in ethical consumerism continues to outstrip the market as a whole.

“I have no doubt that this will come as a surprise to those commentators who thought ethical considerations would be the first casualty of an economic downturn.”

Fairtrade food has been the biggest winner of all ethical goods and services in recent years, with sales increasing by 64 per cent to total £122 million between 2007 and 2009.

Spending on ethical food and drink products as a whole rose by 27 per cent during the period to reach a total of £6.5 billion, whilst disenchantment with traditional banking led to a 23 per cent growth of investment in ethical finance to £19.3 billion.

“Whilst the rapid growth in areas such as Fairtrade and ethical finance, which we have witnessed in previous years, continues, other areas such as micro-generation and renewable electricity have unfortunately failed to make significant progress,” Franklin added.

“We welcome the introduction of feed-in-tariffs for household renewable generation, and would hope to see the impact of these come through in future years’ reports.”

Rechargeable batteries and re-usable nappies were two products that failed to grab the public’s imagination during the recession and the market for energy efficient appliances grew by only eight per cent in two years to reach £7.1 billion.

Franklin concluded: “Consumer commitment to ethical products has remained strong through the downturn, however it is clear that ambitious legislation is needed to enable the mass-market take-up of low carbon lifestyles.”

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