Sales of Fairtrade goods show 30-fold increase in 10 years

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The Independent Online

Fairtrade grew more than any other sector of virtuous goods in the past decade, according to an audit of ethical shopping in the Noughties.

From a few shipments of bananas and coffee 10 years ago, the London-based Fairtrade Foundation now licenses hundreds of products, sending its sales shooting from £22m in 1999 to £635m in 2008 – a 30-fold increase.

The rise has been greater than for other "ethical products" such as organics, sustainable fish, or cosmetics not tested on animals.

During the past decade, ethical spending has risen almost three-fold from £13.5bn in 1999 to £36bn in 2008, five times quicker than general consumer spending, which rose by 58 per cent, according to the report Ten Years of Ethical Consumerism: 1999-2008, published by the Co-op Bank.

It showed that the average household now spends £735 a year on ethical products and services. Ethical investment and banking remain the biggest areas of spending, roughly trebling over the period from £5bn to £14.3bn.

The next biggest, organic food and clothing, rose from £390m to £1.9bn, followed by domestic appliances rated A for energy, which increased from £136m to £1.8bn. Spending on sustainable timber and paper, certified by the Forest Stewardship Council, climbed from £351m to £1.3bn. Charitable donations, however, rose more slowly, from £2.5bn a year to £2.9bn a year.

Neville Richardson, chief executive of Co-operative Financial Services, said: " 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."

According to the report, sales of energy-efficient boilers have risen from £212m to £1.9bn and sales of energy-efficient lightbulbs have risen from £10m to £43m. The Government included a scrappage scheme for old boilers in the pre-Budget report this month and is phasing out traditional incandescent lightbulbs.

"The growth in energy-efficient products such as boilers, white goods, and more recently lightbulbs, has been underpinned by government intervention," said Mr Richardson.

"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."