The findings have been published in the latest Ethical Consumer Market Report, which analyses sales data across a number of consumer sectors including food, travel and finance.

Breaking the sectors down, the report shows that ethical food and drink sales increased by 36% in 2012, to £10.16bn.

This was largely due to sales of Rainforest Alliance products, such as tea and coffee, increasing by 46%, and RSPCA’s Freedom Foods label also increasing with total sales up by 37%.

However, there were small falls in some sectors where price issues are most challenging, such as organic food, which recorded a 4% fall in sales and ethical clothing, down by 1%.

Looking at green home products, including energy efficient white goods, sustainable timber and renewable energy installations, sales were up by 7% to £8.9bn.

The report revealed that ‘ethical travel and transport’ increased by 46% to £4.5bn, largely due to an increase in the sale of electric, hybrid and tax band A efficient vehicles. Sales of these vehicles were up by 157% as a result of more models becoming available.

Seeing less activity was ethical personal products sales, which rose by just 3% to £1.8bn. This was despite a big rise in the purchase of second-hand clothing (up 31%). The report says that this fits with the “story of straightened budgets in recessionary times”.

According to the director at Ethical Consumer Research Association, Rob Harrison, the ethical products market has shown significant growth each year since the onset of the recession.

“This clearly demonstrates that the trend towards ethical buying is not a luxury which consumers choose to drop when the going gets tough, but an important long-term change in the way people are making buying decisions,” said Harrison.

For more on ethical consumerism, Green & Black’s co-founder Jo Fairley will be taking to the keynote stage at this year’s Sustainability Live at the NEC 1-3 April. For more information and to register free, visit

Leigh Stringer

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