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UK ethical spending tops £100bn for the first time

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The UK ‘green pound’ has reached record levels, breaking through the £100 billion barrier for the first time, according the latest edition of the Co-op’s Ethical Consumerism Report.

The report says ethical consumer spending and finance in the UK surged by over a quarter in 2020 to total £122 billion. And it shows how, in just ten years, the green pound has more than doubled from £51 billion while Britons are withholding cash at record-levels to boycott brands due to social or environmental concerns.

Steve Murrells, Co-op Group CEO said: “Our Ethical Consumerism Report is a barometer on consumer behaviour and shoppers are turning up the heat to boycott businesses which fail to act on ethical or social concerns. The report is a warning to brands that they must do business a better way for workers, communities and the planet but it offers clear evidence to policy-makers that they can positively influence change.”

Organic tops the ranking of ethical food and drink schemes (collectively worth £14 billion), followed by Fairtrade, Rainforest Alliance, free-range eggs and vegetarian and Plant based alternatives. Plant-based recorded the strongest growth, up 34% to almost £1.5 billion in 2020. 

Ethical money – ethical banking, investments and share issues – is the single biggest segment and totalled over £57 billion in  2020. Green energy, the second largest segment, saw spend rise to over £20.5 billion. In ethical transport (alternative fuel vehicles, tax band A cars and bicycles) electric cars are shown to be the driving force for the green revolution in the UK, with alternative fuel cars sales almost doubling in value from £5.4 billion to £10.4 billion.

The eco home sector grew strongly in 2020, up from £15.2 billion (2019) to £20.5 billion. Meanwhile, second-hand clothing sales hit £864m as responsible Brits opted to re-use clothing. Sales of ethical cosmetics meanwhile increased to almost £1 billion an 11% increase, boosted by a shift towards online shopping and skincare products during the pandemic.

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