Shoppers turn to ethical goods despite recession

Spending on ethical goods and services grew by almost a fifth over two years despite the economic downturn.

The "ethical market" in the UK was worth 43.2bn in 2009 compared with 36.5bn two years earlier, an increase of 18 per cent, according to The Co-operative Bank's annual Ethical Consumerism Report.

The report has been compiled since 1999 and analyses sales data for food, household goods, eco-travel and ethical finance.

Winners throughout the downturn included Fairtrade products, the RSPCA's Freedom Food-labelled items and ethical banking.

However organic food, rechargeable batteries and real nappies, as opposed to disposable versions, lost out.

Spending on ethical food and drink increased by 27 per cent to reach 6.5bn, or 8 per cent of all food and drink sales.

Fairtrade food grew by 64 per cent to reach sales of 749m, while sales of Freedom Food products tripled in two years to reach 122m.

Sales of organic food fell by 14 per cent to 1,704m.

Ethical personal products including clothing and cosmetics was the fastest growing sector, increasing by 29 per cent to 1.8bn.

The market for green home products such as energy efficient appliances grew by 8 per cent in two years to reach 7.1bn.

Ethical finance increased by 23 per cent to reach 19.3bn between 2007 and 2009, helped by a "flight to trust" among consumers disenchanted with much of the financial services sector.

Tim Franklin, chief operating officer of The Co-operative Financial Services, said: "This annual report clearly shows that the growth in ethical consumerism continues to outstrip the market as a whole. I have no doubt that this will come as a surprise to those commentators who thought ethical considerations would be the first casualty of an economic downturn.