UK retailer The Co-operative Group today (28 November) insisted that the economic downturn will not halt growing interest in ethical products.

The Co-op claimed the overall ethical market in the UK grew by 15% in 2007 with sales reaching GBP35.5bn (US$54.59bn), according to figures in The Co-operative Bank's ninth annual report ion green spending in the country.

The retailer said ethical sales had grown despite the "first tremors" of the downturn being felt towards the end of 2007. Green legislation and choice editing will continue to drive sales, it said.

"Of course, the state of the economy will impact on consumer spending but this report shows that bold government action can stimulate markets, save consumers' money and protect the environment," said Dick Parkhouse, managing director retail at The Co-operative Bank.

"Government intervention, which promotes energy efficient products such as boilers, white goods and more recently light bulbs, is underpinning these markets ensuring that they continue to grow."

According to the report, every household in the UK spent an average of GBP707 on ethical products in 2007, up from an average of GBP630 a year earlier.

While ethical spending stood at GBP35.5bn in 2007, total annual consumer spending reached over GBP600bn, the report said.