Shoppers show they still care as ethical products beat downturn

Fairtrade food sales rose by 36 per cent, while sales of sustainable fish rose by 16.3 per cent

According to conventional wisdom, in times of financial hardship shoppers are only interested in a bargain. But ethical products, such as Fairtrade chocolate, solar panels and eco-friendly cars, have proved to be recession-busters.

In the last year, the amount Britons spent on them rose from £43bn to £46.8bn, an increase of 8.8 per cent and almost 250 per cent up from the £13.5bn spent in 1999.

The scale of the growth of guilt-free products, detailed in the Co-operative Bank's Ethical Consumerism Report 2011, not only points to a growing awareness among consumers but also among businesses, which are keen to be seen acting with greater social responsibility. Among those embracing change is Cadbury, which in 2009 announced that all its Dairy Milk chocolate would be Fairtrade. Mars and Nestlé have followed suit, with their Maltesers and KitKat products, while Tate & Lyle now sells a range of Fairtrade sugar.

But there have also been some big losers, with organic foods suffering particularly badly as shoppers seek cheaper options. Sales sank 10 per cent in 2010 to £1.53bn, a 23 per cent fall since the organic sector peaked in 2008 at a value of almost £2bn.

Barry Clavin, who helped compile the report, said one of the surprises was that even during the economic downturn supermarkets have been prepared to increase the shelf space available to ethical products. "It's selling so it keeps its space," he said.

Fairtrade food sales rose 36 per cent from £749m to £1.02bn in 2009-10. Spending on green electricity generators, such as solar panels and small wind turbines, rose 386 per cent from £51m to £248m, while sales of low-emission and electric cars shot up by 128.7 per cent, from £370m to £846m. In 1999, when the Co-op first reported on ethical sales, only £4m of "green" vehicles were sold.

Sustainable fish saw the second largest increase in ethical foodstuffs, with a 16.3 per cent rise from £178m in 2009 to £207m in 2010. A decade ago, when the Marine Stewardship Council – the gold standard of seafood eco-labelling – was in its infancy, sales were negligible. Further rises are expected for this year's figures following Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's Fish Fight campaign against discards. The MSC's James Simpson said: "It's great news for the oceans. In the MSC-certified fisheries, supported by UK shoppers and businesses, fish stocks are up."

Charles Clover, of the award-winning documentary The End of the Line, said: "It's wonderful to see sustainable fish sales have shot up. This is a welcome shot in the arm for our oceans."

Clio Turton, of the Soil Association, said of the fall in organic sales: "It's been a tough year in line with lots of other sectors but the decline is levelling off and we are a bit more confident for this year that it is stabilising."

Unemployment hits 17-year high

A spike in public-sector redundancies drove the unemployment rate to a 17-year high in the three months to October, in the latest jobs report from the Office for National Statistics. The overall jobless figure hit 2.64 million, up 128,000 since August. About 8.3 per cent of the UK workforce is now unemployed, up from 7.9 per cent in the previous quarter.

Over the same period, 67,000 jobs were shed in the public sector, mainly in local government.

Youth unemployment rose. Those aged 16 to 24 out of work increased by 54,000 to hit 1.3 million. About 22 per cent of young people are now out of work.

Ben Chu

Susan Sarandon described David Bowie as
peopleSusan Sarandon reveals more on her David Bowie romance
Arsenal supporters gather for a recent ‘fan party’ in New Jersey
sportDidier Drogba returns to Chelsea on one-year deal
Arts and Entertainment
The Secret Cinema performance of Back to the Future has been cancelled again
Life and Style
Balmain's autumn/winter 2014 campaign, shot by Mario Sorrenti and featuring Binx Walton, Cara Delevingne, Jourdan Dunn, Ysaunny Brito, Issa Lish and Kayla Scott
fashionHow Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film
filmFifty Shades of Grey trailer provokes moral outrage in US
BBC broadcaster and presenter Evan Davis, who will be taking over from Jeremy Paxman on Newsnight
peopleForget Paxman - what will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Life and Style
fashionCustomer complained about the visibly protruding ribs
The new dawn heralded by George Osborne has yet to rise
voicesJames Moore: As the Tories rub their hands together, the average voter will be asking why they're not getting a piece of the action
Dejan Lovren celebrates scoring for Southampton although the goal was later credited to Adam Lallana
newsComedy club forced to apologise as maggots eating a dead pigeon fall out of air-conditioning
Arts and Entertainment
Jo Brand says she's mellowed a lot
tvJo Brand says shows encourage people to laugh at the vulnerable
Life and Style
People may feel that they're procrastinating by watching TV in the evening
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Senior Risk Manager - Banking - London - £650

£600 - £650 per day: Orgtel: Conduct Risk Liaison Manager - Banking - London -...

The benefits of being in Recruitment at SThree...

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Comission: SThree: SThree, International Recruitme...

Test Analyst - UAT - Credit Risk

£280 - £300 per day + competitive: Orgtel: Test Analyst, Edinburgh, Credit Ris...

Trainee Recruitment Consultants - Banking & Finance

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £40,000: SThree: SThree Group have been well e...

Day In a Page

Evan Davis: The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing to take over at Newsnight

The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing

What will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Finding the names for America’s shame: What happens to the immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert?

Finding the names for America’s shame

The immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert
Inside a church for Born Again Christians: Speaking to God in a Manchester multiplex

Inside a church for Born Again Christians

As Britain's Anglican church struggles to establish its modern identity, one branch of Christianity is booming
Rihanna, Kim Kardashian and me: How Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Parisian couturier Pierre Balmain made his name dressing the mid-century jet set. Today, Olivier Rousteing – heir to the house Pierre built – is celebrating their 21st-century equivalents. The result? Nothing short of Balmania
Cancer, cardiac arrest, HIV and homelessness - and he's only 39

Incredible survival story of David Tovey

Tovey went from cooking for the Queen to rifling through bins for his supper. His is a startling story of endurance against the odds – and of a social safety net failing at every turn
Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little