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Ethical spending doubles but spending on green energy is low

Spending on ethical goods and services has almost doubled in the past five years, according to a report from the Co-operative bank.

The average household in the UK now spends £664 on goods in line with their ethical values, against just £366 in 2002, a rise of 81%.

The total ethical market in Britain has grown by 9% in the last year to £32.3bn, but it remains a fraction of the total consumer spending of more than £600bn.

Yet, while this might seem like good news for green campaigners, households appear to be sluggish in their efforts to combat global warming. The report found the average homeowner spent only £6 a year on renewable power.

Ethical consumerism is defined by the bank as personal allocation of funds, including consumption and investment, where choice has been informed by a particular issue such as human rights, social justice, the environment or animal welfare.

Households spent an average of £213 last year on green home products, such as energy-efficient light bulbs and A-rated kitchen appliances.

Spending on ethical food and drink, such as Fairtrade tea, coffee and bananas, and organic brands, averaged £190.

Simon Williams, director of corporate affairs for the Co-operative Bank, said the market share for ethical food and drink had smashed through the "green glass ceiling" of 5% of the entire market.

Williams said: "Factoring in the effect of consumer boycotts, this market share could be as high as 7%. Potentially, we could see market share hit 10% in the next year or two."

Overall, ethical clothing sales rose by 79% over the year, Fairtrade sales by 46%, energy-efficient light bulbs by 44%, ethical investments by 18% and ethical banking by 11%.

However, it wasn't all positive, with some areas experiencing a marked decline. Charity shops sales were down 13%, having been squeezed by internet auction sites and discount retailers who offer an alternative route for second-hand goods.

The report comes on the heels of research published in September that revealed the public was becoming increasingly distrustful of the green claims made by companies in advertising.

Four in five Britons now believe that many companies pretend to be ethical just to sell more products, according to a survey by Ipsos Mori for SEE Potential, a for-profit business set up to promote ethical business.

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