The credit crunch will not reverse the rise of “ethical shopping”, the chief executive of retail analysts IGD said today (4 June).

Speaking to retail delegates in London, Joanne Denney-Finch said that, although consumer anxiety over the economy may slow “ethical” sales, the trend was unlikely to be reversed.

“Ethical shopping is based on deep-seated beliefs and people will not backtrack on these lightly,” Denney-Finch said.

Pointing to IGD research, Denney-Finch said more than half of European shoppers are “ethical shoppers”, making the segment “more than just a niche”.

“Shoppers want products that combine ethical advantages, rather than a single issue,” she said. “The challenge is for companies to communicate and label clearly to help shoppers navigate through this wide range of issues.”

Issues around sustainability present the greatest challenge to the food and retail industries, Denney-Finch argued. “Sustainability is about making your business future-proof and, in these turbulent times, this is of increasing importance,” she said.

According to research undertaken by IGD, the two most important drivers behind sustainability efforts are improving corporate image and the opportunity to differentiate – and Denney-Finch said companies must be sincere on the issue.

“Sustainability is evolving. If you are not whole-hearted about sustainability, watch out because you could be outflanked by your competitors.”