Ethical spending across the UK has reached “record” highs as it exceeded £100bn for the first time ever, amounting to a total of £122bn in 2021, according to new data from the Co-Op.
While the UK’s ‘green pound’ soared over the period, brand boycotts on ethical grounds were also found to have risen “sharply” to almost £4bn, marking a rise of 18% in the year.
According to the Co-op’s Ethical Consumerism Report, in just 10 years, the UK’s ‘green pound’ has more than doubled from £51bn. Meanwhile, consumers withheld cash at “record-levels” to boycott brands due to social or environmental concerns.
Vegetarian and plant-based food and drinks saw a 34% sales increase to almost £1.5bn over the year, while plant-based burgers out-performed their meat-based counterparts by 24% in 2021. Data also revealed an increase in the sales of plant-based ready meals, which outperformed meat-based ready meals by 15% over the last 12 months.
It comes as the report also revealed that concerns over Fairtrade, animal welfare and sustainable food sourcing now account for almost £9bn. Independent certification continued to be important to consumers, as Fairtrade, RSPCA Freedom Assured and Rainforest Alliance brands all rose in value.
Meanwhile, second-hand clothing sales hit £864m in the year as consumers opted to reuse clothing. According to the Co-Op, sales of ethical cosmetics also rose by 11% to almost £1bn also, largely boosted by a shift towards online shopping and skincare products during the pandemic.
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.”
He added: “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.”