Ethical sales grow 3-fold in decade says The Co-operative Bank

January 22, 2010

Expenditure on ethical goods and services has grown almost three–fold in the past 10 years according to The Co-operative Bank’s Ethical Consumerism Report published today (30 December).

The report, which has been acting as a barometer of ethical spending in the UK for a decade, shows that overall the ethical market in the UK was worth £36 billion in 2008 compared to £13.5 billion in 1999.

The authoritative report analyses ethical sales data for various sectors including food, household goods, eco-travel and ethical finance. Whilst most sectors have outstripped the market, which has seen overall consumer spending increase by 58 per cent in the 10-year period, Fairtrade has enjoyed phenomenal success with sales up 30 fold.

Sales of Fairtrade goods and produce, that give a premium to growers and producers in developing countries, were just £22m back in 1999 but last year that figure had grown to £635m and it is expected that during 2010 Fairtrade purchases will break the £1 billion barrier for the first time.

The data also shows that sales of energy efficient electrical appliances and boilers, which have grown 12 fold and nine times respectively, have also seen exceptional growth while the mature financial services market has seen ethical banking and investments triple over the course of the decade.

Neville Richardson, Chief Executive at The Co-operative Financial Services, said: “This annual report gives a unique insight into changing consumer trends. It is clear that UK shoppers have grown accustomed to supporting growers in developing countries by buying Fairtrade an initiative pioneered by the Co-operative.

“Although the report shows that the idea of ethical purchasing is now well established amongst many consumers there is still a long way to go if we are all going to adopt the low carbon lifestyle needed to avoid cataclysmic climate change.

“The growth in energy efficient products such as boilers, white goods and more recently lightbulbs, has been underpinned by Government intervention.

“In order for the UK to reduce its carbon emissions by 30 per cent by 2020 there will need to be a step-change in take-up of low carbon technologies, and this will need a new contract between business, government and the consumer.”

Consumer spending in 2008 totalled £891,290 million, an increase of 58 per cent from £562,915 million in 1999 (Source, ONS Consumer Trends Q1 2001 and Q2 2009).

The Co-operative itself has been largely responsible for the success of Fairtrade, having been the first major supermarket to support the concept 15 years ago. Through an ongoing strategic approach including product development, innovation and campaigning, The Co-operative has convinced the food industry to follow its lead and engage in Fairtrade support.

For further information please contact:
Russ Brady
Head of Public Relations
The Co-operative Financial Services Press Office
Tel: 0161 827
Email :

Duncan Bowker
Public Relations Manager
The Co-operative Financial Services Press Office
Tel: 0161 903 3819
Email :