According to the Co-op group, expenditure on ethical goods and services has grown almost threefold in the past 10 years, the Co-operative Bank declared today (30 December 2009) as it publishes its tenth annual report into green spending. Overall the ethical market in the UK was worth £36 billion in 2008 compared to £13.5 billion in 1999.
Whilst most sectors have outstripped the market, which has seen overall consumer spending increase by 58 per cent in the 10-year period, Fairtrade has enjoyed phenomenal success with sales up 30 fold. Sales of Fairtrade goods and produce, that give a premium to growers and producers in developing countries, were just £22 million back in 1999 but last year that figure had grown to £635 million and it is expected that during 2010 Fairtrade purchases will break the £1 billion barrier for the first time.
The data also shows that sales of energy efficient electrical appliances and boilers, which have grown 12 fold and nine times respectively, have also seen exceptional growth while the mature financial services market has seen ethical banking and investments triple over the course of the decade.
Spending on sustainable products and services over the past decade has increased tenfold, with each UK household now spending on average £251 per annum on green items. Expenditure on environmentally friendly products and services such as energy efficient appliances, green energy and carbon offsetting is £6,417 million. However this still represents less than one per cent of total household expenditure.
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. The growth in energy efficient products such as boilers, white goods and more recently light bulbs, has been underpinned by Government intervention.
In order 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.