Ethical economy gains strength in recession

During the economic downturn, demand for ethical goods and services in the UK have remained resilient following a commitment by retailers and producers to add Fairtrade ingredients into...

During the economic downturn, demand for ethical goods and services in the UK has remained resilient following a commitment by retailers and producers to add Fairtrade ingredients into their offerings.

That is the conclusion of the Co-operative Group’s annual Ethical Consumer Markets Report, which shows that since the onset of the recession five years ago the total value of ethical markets has gone from £35.5bn to £47.2bn.

Acting as a barometer of green markets since 1999 when annual ethical sales were just £13.5bn, the report analyses sales data for various sectors including food, household goods, eco-travel and ethical finance.

Among the biggest growing categories during the recession are sustainable fish up 323 per cent from £69m to £292m, Fairtrade which has increased 176 per cent from £458m to £1,262m and free range eggs sales up 78 per cent from £444m to £792m

However, sales of organic produce, although now stabilised at £1.5bn, have declined from a high of £1.9bn in 2008,

In 2011, ethical food and drink markets increased 7.8 per cent per cent to reach £6.9bn. Markets for green home products were up 10.6 per cent to ££8.4bn and ethical personal products were up 4.3 per cent to £1.8bn.

Barry Clavin, Sustainability Reporting Manager at the society, said: “The report shows that intervention by enlightened businesses, together with regulatory intervention, is driving ethical sales growth.

“During the downturn we’ve seen some of the biggest ever Fairtrade conversions, be it in chocolate or sugar, and business is beginning to respond to the challenge to provide consumers with more sustainable products and services such as fish, palm oil and soya. 

“Ethical consumers are still a vitally important agent of change; however, the actions of progressive business are now a significant contributor to sales growth.

At the same time, let’s not lose sight of the fact that ethical sales remain a small proportion of total sales. Ultimately, over and above the efforts of responsible business and ethical consumers, sustainable solutions require a government committed to long term intervention.”

• Read the full report, below. 

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