Ethical spending surges to £38bn in UK as consumers look to green alternatives

The value of overall ethical sales grew by 8 per cent up to £38 billion

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The Independent Online

Surging sales of green vehicles and solar panels have contributed to the growth of the UK ethical market in 2014, according to the latest figures available in a new survey.

The value of overall ethical sales grew by 8 per cent up to £38 billion, during a period when inflation barely rose above 0.5 per cent, according to the new Ethical Consumer markets report by the magazine Ethical Consumer and Triodos Bank.

For Charles Middleton, Triodos Bank Managing Director, the findings are a sign that UK consumers are still making conscious choices with their money, despite difficult market conditions.


Ethical spending includes ethical food and drink (organic and vegetarian food, free range products and sustainable fish among others), green home (energy efficient appliances, light bulbs, ethical cleaning products among others), transport (hybrid cars and bicycles), ethical personal products( ethical clothing and cosmetics), community (local and charity shops) and boycotts.

Green spending at home rose by 4 per cent with spending on solar panels going up by nearly 25 per cent, according to Ethical consumer.

Sales of electric, hybrid and other tax-band A-rated cars grew by 40 per cent to nearly £7 billion, when bicycles sales rose by 9 per cent.

However, Rob Harrison the editor of Ethical consumer magazine warned that changes in government’s policies such as the heavy cuts to subsidies for rooftop solar panels hitting the green energy sector will make it harder to achieve the same growth next year.

“Disappointing changes to government incentives for home renewable energy installations and lower impact motoring in 2015 will threaten the strong growth in sales of lower carbon choices identified in this report. 

“Government incentives to encourage ethical behaviours can bring the most dramatic changes in consumer impacts and should be used more rather than less,” he said.

The report highlighted the first ever fall of Fairtrade sales since the scheme was launched 20 years ago.

Fairtrade sales fell to £1.6 million down from £1.7 million, a dip of 4 per cent. The so-called supermarket wars have taken a toll on Fairtrade sales after poor results from Co-op and Sainsbury’s – Fairtrade’s biggest supporters in the retail sector. The rise of discounts supermarket Aldi and Lidl, which stock smaller Fairtrade ranges, could be behind the trend, the report said.

The overall sales of ethical food and drink still grew by around 1 per cent in 2014 with a robust 12 per cent growth in sustainable fish sale and an 8 per cent in free range poultry.