Green spending in the black despite market challenges

Ethical spending and investment has continued to grow despite difficult market conditions with surging sales of electric and hybrid vehicles helping to fuel the expansion, a study published today reveals.

Sales of electric cars are on the rise. Picture: Steven Scott Taylor
Sales of electric cars are on the rise. Picture: Steven Scott Taylor

The value of green spending in the UK has grown by more than 8 per cent to some £38 billion, during a period when inflation barely rose above 0.5 per cent, according to figures released by Ethical Consumer magazine and Triodos Bank.

Sales of electric, hybrid and other tax-band A-rated cars leapt by 40 per cent to nearly £7bn, and spending on solar panels rose by nearly 25 per cent to £716 million.

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The Ethical Consumer Markets Report also shows that ethical investment grew by 9 per cent to £13bn. However, the value of money deemed to be held ethically fell by 2 per cent, largely caused by accounts being closed or moved from the Co-operative Bank.

In the food and drink sector, last year saw the first ever fall in the value of Fairtrade sales – dipping by 4 per cent – since the scheme began.

The report suggested that this may have been caused by a combination of factors including falling market share at Sainsbury’s and the Co-op – Fairtrade’s biggest supporters in the retail sector – and growing sales at Aldi and Lidl, which have smaller Fairtrade ranges.

The ethical food sector grew overall with a revival in organic sales, strong growth in sustainable fish sales, and a robust performance in other ethical food sectors.

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Charles Middleton, managing director of Triodos Bank, said: “Every one of has a role to play in tackling the pressing social and environmental challenges facing us, and making conscious choices about how we use our money is one of the most powerful ways each of us can make a difference. This includes the 
products we buy, the companies we buy from and the banks we entrust our money with.

“The report’s findings are a very positive sign for ethical consumption, demonstrating that despite continuing economic hardship, people are making conscious choices, and at a growing rate.”

Rob Harrison, editor of Ethical Consumer, warned of some obstacles threatening the continued growth of the sector.

He said: “Disappointing changes to government incentives for home renewable energy installations and lower impact motoring in 2015 will threaten the strong growth in sales of lower carbon choices identified in this report.

“Successive reports have shown that government incentives to encourage ethical behaviours can bring the most dramatic changes in consumer impacts and should be used more rather than less.”

The report has been acting as a key barometer of green spending since 1999 by tracking sales data across a wide range of consumer sectors from food to fashion.