UK ethical market 2011

Ethical sales continue to grow

In December 2011 the Co-operative Group released their annual Ethical Consumerism report. The big headline was that, despite the economic downturn, sales of ethical goods and services grew by 8.8% last year against only a 0.4% rise in overall consumer spending over the same period.

In fact growth over the last 13 years has been phenomenal. In 1999 when the first report was commissioned ethical sales stood at just £13.5bn.  With sales now at £46.8bn, this represents 9% of the British public’s spending, up from 3% in 1999.


Food - ups and downs

In 2010, expenditure on ethical food and drink increased 5.1% to reach £6.6bn. Fairtrade food sales grew by 36% to reach £1.02bn, while sales of fish from sustainable sources grew 16.3%. However it wasn’t all good news on the food front with sales of organic produce down by 10% to £1.53bn. This represents a decrease of 23% since its peak of £1.99bn in 2008.

This can partly be explained by increasing price consciousness among consumers. Fairtrade premiums commonly make these products around 10% more than market price. Organic products  can see some items – particularly meat – up to four times the price of their less ethical counterparts. The other key element in the big rise in Fairtrade sales is the entry into the market of more big transnational corporations. Nestlé introduced Fairtrade chocolate into KitKats last year while Cadbury’s completed its conversion of the entire range of Dairy Milk.


Green energy boom

The spend on green energy was up 15% to £352m, and the sales of small scale micro-generation increased a massive 386% from £51m to £248m. This figure is however unlikely to be as high next year as the government seeks to reduce costs by attacking the feed-in tariff. Green car sales - with new models appearing - were up also up 129% from £370m to £846m, and spend on bicycles was up to £698m.


Green banking also up

The value of money in ethical savings and investments increased by 9.3% in 2010 to £21.2bn. This includes £9bn in bank deposits as well as £11.3bn in ethical investments. One of the emerging areas in 2010 was that of peer-to-peer lending. Perhaps the Move Your Money campaign will bring even bigger increases in future years?


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