Reports about trends in ethical consumerism since the advent of the economic crisis are contradictory, to say the least.

Market research carried out by retail analyst TNS demonstrated that after a tenfold increase in sales over the past decade (peaking at £100 million in February 2008) sales are now falling – most notably in eggs, but also in chicken, dairy, fresh fruit and vegetables. However, research by Organic Monitor shows that consumer demand for fair-trade products continues to strengthen despite the recession, and with the mainstreaming of Faitrade – such as Cadbury’s recent revelation that all Dairy Milk will become Fairtrade certified – this strong growth may be set to continue.

ethical-consumerism-report-2007Experts have warned that consumers under economic pressure tend to concentrate on self-preservation and less about others. However, the Co-operative Bank’s Ethical Consumerism Report 2008 argues that ‘despite the first tremors of the downturn being felt towards the end of last year, the overall ethical market in the UK was worth £35.5 billion in 2007, up 15 per cent from £31 billion in the previous 12 months.’ The Co-operative attributes the growth in ethical consumerism to the impact of Government green legislation and ‘choice editing’. These factors are likely to continue past growth trends.

The exact impact of the recession on ethical consumerism will not be fully evident until the recession subsides, but if fairtrade, organic and other ethically certified food can ride the economic storm, the potential devestating impacts of the recession on small farmers and labourers in the developing world, and indeed the environment, may be somewhat attenuated.