Co-operative Bank puts sales of ethical goods and services in 2011 at more than £47bn, up from £35.5bn five years ago
Sales of ethical goods and services have increased despite the recession, growing to more than £47bn last year.
Since the onset of the economic downturn five years ago, the value of ethical markets from Fairtrade products and green energy to free-range and sustainable food has grown from £35.5bn to £47.2bn, according to a report produced by the Co-operative Bank.
The annual ethical consumer markets report shows that sales in the sector have grown from £13.5bn in 1999.
Barry Clavin, sustainability reporting manager at the Co-operative, said: “This 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.”
Sustainable fish has become increasingly popular, with sales up to £292m last year from £69m five years ago, while Fairtrade sales more than doubled to £1,262m in 2011 and free range eggs sales rose from £444m to £792m.
Sales of organic produce, however, fell from a high of £1.9bn in 2008 to around £1.5bn last year.
Small-scale green energy increased last year, with people benefiting from the feed-in tariff subsidies for solar panels, and overall markets for green home products increased by more than 10% on the previous year to be worth £8.4bn.
The Co-operative put the growth in ethical markets down to consumers, increasing action by business and more regulatory intervention.
But Clavin said that ethical markets remain a small proportion of total sales, and solutions that ensure environmental sustainability, good animal welfare and a fair deal for producers required a government committed to long-term intervention.