Sales of ethical goods and services – ranging from groceries and household items to financial products and funerals – have remained resilient despite the economic downturn, according to a new report from the Co-operative Group. Overall, they increased by almost 9% in 2010, up from £43bn (EUR 52bn) to £46.8bn (EUR 56bn). Since 1999, sales have increased by about 220% from £13.5bn (EUR 16.2bn).
Organic food and drink has taken a hit, with sales slumping 10% to £1.5bn (EUR 1.8bn) last year as cash-strapped shoppers opted for cheaper alternatives. “Vegetarian products” also saw a small fall. But many other areas enjoyed strong growth, according to the group’s latest annual “ethical consumerism report”.
The biggest increases were in sales of “micro-generation” products such as solar thermal and solar photovoltaic panels and heat pumps (up by 386%), as well as “green” cars (up 129%).
Another sector seeing impressive growth was Fairtrade food and drink, which pays a premium to farmers and producers in poor countries to help them work their way out of poverty, and recorded a rise of more than a third (36%).
Sales of fish from sustainable sources grew by 16.3%, and expenditure on green funerals leaped by around 35% to £6.9m (EUR 8.3m) from £5.1m (EUR 6.1m).
Charitable donations have remained surprisingly stable during the downturn, with consumers giving £3.6bn (EUR 4.3bn) to environmental, social and animal welfare causes. In addition, the value of money in ethical savings and investments increased by 9% in 2010 to £21.1bn (EUR 25.3bn). This includes £9bn (EUR 10.8bn) in ethical bank deposits as well as £11.3bn (EUR 13.6bn) in ethical investments.
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