UK spending on ‘ethical products’ including electric cars and second-hand clothes surpasses £100bn

·2-min read
A woman charges her electric car (Getty)
A woman charges her electric car (Getty)

The UK’s annual spending on ethical products such as free-range eggs, electric cars and plant-based food reached a record-breaking £122bn in 2020, according to a new report.

The value of the “green pound” has risen by 90 per cent since figures were first recorded in 1999, when consumers spent £11.2bn on ethical products, according to Co-op’s 2021 Ethical Consumerism report.

The amount of money people are withholding from companies in “brand boycotts” also rose by 18 per cent, to a total of almost £4bn.

A large rise in ethical spending was seen in the food industry, with sales of plant-based food and drinks increasing by 34 per cent to almost £1.5bn.

The most popular meat-free options were plant-based burgers, which outperformed other products by 24 per cent.

Co-op reported that its own figures revealed that vegetarian ready meals were 15 per cent more popular than those that contained meat.

Additionally, sales of free-range eggs surpassed £1bn for the first time.

Concerns over the climate crisis also influenced other areas of spending. According to figures from the Office for National Statistics, 75 per cent of UK adults are worried about its impact.

This was reflected in sales of electric cars, which almost doubled in value from £5.4bn to £10.4bn – the biggest ethical spending increase across all industries.

The fashion industry, which accounts for 10 per cent of annual global carbon emissions, was also affected by a shift in UK adults’ spending habits. More people opted to buy second-hand clothing, with sales reaching £846m.

Additionally, people are spending more money on ethical cosmetics, such as those that are cruelty-free and have not been tested on animals. Sales of these products rose by 11 per cent in 2020, reaching a total of almost £1bn.

Steve Murrells, Co-op Group CEO, commented: “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.”

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