2017: The year in review

written by Hanna Pumfrey

 Was 2017 the most conscious year on record? A recent report from Ethical Consumer certainly suggest it was.

Sometimes, it can feel lonely out there on the ethical consumption and sustainable living plain; constantly receiving puzzled looks and at times even eye rolls from friends and family who don’t understand your choices. Worst of all, with all the media hype it can often seem like your efforts are a waste of time and having zero impact. I know. I feel this regularly.

I wanted to take a moment, as we near the end of 2017 to take stock and realise everything that has been achieved in the conscious living space this year. To take a moment to remind ourselves that we are not alone in this pursuit. That there is a huge community of environmental enthusiasts, ethical entrepreneurs and all round wonderful people out there striving for a better world.

So, here are the top 10 highlights as I see them (source: ethical consumer org, UK Ethical Market Annual Report):

  • The UK’s Ethical market grew by 3.2% in 2016, whilst inflation averaged 0.64%
  • A 30% increase in vegetarianism was recorded and an even faster rise in veganism
  • Some may have expected Organic sales to decline in 2016 as the post-Brexit downturn saw a decline in disposable income for most households but Organic has defied trends, continuing to grow during 2016. The Organic food and drink market grew to £1.81 billion, a year-on-year increase of 3.8%
  • Young consumers drive forward Ethical Cleaning Products. Many companies have reported a boom in the number of young consumers prioritising the naturalness of the goods they buy
  • Although only about 1% of the domestic population is on a “green” electricity tariff, Ethical Consumer’s dataset shows very strong growth of 54.7%, which represents an overall increase of £119 million in a single year
  • Sales of ethically certified clothes have increased significantly, by 22.4%, since the 2016 report
  • 5.4% growth was recorded in ‘Local Shopping’ showing UK consumers are returning to the local high streets and increasingly wanting to know where their produce is from and opting for local alternatives. 42% of us chose to shop locally in 2017 spending an estimated £2.7 billion
  • 48% of people said they had chosen to boycott a brand for ethical reasons over the last 12 months with the value of consumer boycotts reaching over £2.5 billion.
  • There was a 34% increase in the number of people talking to their friends and family about unethical companies
  • Almost 30% more of us are avoiding using private cars and choosing to walk, cycle or use public transport instead

What wonderful news to end the year on! I truly believe that it is this power of collective ambition that will allow our world to move towards a sustainable future for all. We are a whole community of individuals doing wonderful things every day that together is making a real difference in our world. It is our demands as consumers that are placing pressure on governments and corporations to make changes towards sustainable operations and ethical production.

2018 is being touted as the year of the ‘ethical economy’; we, the consumer, are being heard and our beliefs are being considered. Research suggests that in 2018 organisations will need to proactively demonstrate what they stand for to remain competitive in the market as people will increasingly choose the brands that align to their personal beliefs.

Organisational and governmental transparency is also being demanded and technologies such as Blockchain has the potential to clear the fog of internet ambiguity, win back lost trust and repair relationships between consumer and brand.

So, here’s to 2018! Let’s take all our learnings from 2017 and continue to grow and better our world for generations to come.