Ethical spending hits ‘record’ £122bn in 2021
Annual spending on ethical products and investments has surged past £100bn for the first time after the coronavirus crisis and climate fears sparked lifestyle changes among consumers.
Shoppers increasingly turned to plant-based foods, second-hand clothes and furniture and greener gadgets during 2020, according to a Co-op report, covering the most recent year for which full data was available.
According to the Co-op’s Ethical Consumerism Report which has tracked consumer shopping habits since 1999, in just ten years, the ‘green pound’ has more than doubled from £51bn but Britons are withholding cash at record-levels to boycott brands due to social or environmental concerns.
The report shows that ethical shoppers have moved towards vegetarian and plant-based food and drinks, which have experienced a 34% sales increase to almost £1.5bn. In the summer last year, Co-op introduced a price-match initiative for its own brand plant-based foods against equivalent meat products to make it easier for shoppers to buy plant-based alternatives.
Sales data from the convenience retailer shows that plant-based burgers out-performed meat-based counterparts by 24% in 2021. Data also reveals an increase in the sales of plant-based ready meals, with Co-op’s plant-based range, GRO, outperforming meat-based ready meals by 15% over the last 12 months.
Steve Murrells, Chief Executive of the Co-op Group, 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 policymakers that they can positively influence change.
“I had the privilege of attending COP-26 and whilst we can all agree the summit did deliver some progress, the hard yards begin now. Every business will have a role to play and we’re clear that a key part of our role is to help educate on how customers can make a difference by changing how they shop. And we know that we can achieve greater things together, which is why we’ve promised with our supermarket counterparts to halve our environmental impacts by the end of this decade.”
The report into consumer spending revealed that concerns over Fairtrade, animal welfare and sustainable food sourcing now account for almost £9bn.
Independent certification continued to be important in helping consumers make better choices. The Fairtrade, RSPCA Freedom Assured and Rainforest Alliance brands all rose in value while spend on MSC certified sustainable fish fell from £899m to £818m.
Free-range egg sales topped over £1bn for the first time and were helped by the increase in market volume as more supermarkets joined the Co-op in only selling free-range eggs.
Meanwhile, second-hand clothing sales hit £864m as frugal consumers opted to re-use clothing. Sales of ethical cosmetics increased to almost £1bn also, an 11% increase, and boosted by a shift towards online shopping and skincare products during the pandemic.
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