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Consumer Attitudes towards Green and Ethical Finance - UK - November 2011

“The most committed consumers just don’t trust most financial services firms to behave ethically, and the more interest they take in ethical issues, the greater the level of mistrust is. Of more than a dozen mainstream financial services brands, there were only two that were, on balance, more trusted than distrusted by those consumers most interested in the idea of ethical financial services: the Co-operative Bank and Nationwide.”

– Toby Clark, Head of UK Financial Services Research

Some questions answered in this report include:

  • Does apathy override good intentions?
  • Who do the committed consumers trust?
  • How do financial services firms override the mistrust?
  • Do financial services brands have any credibility in their ethical claims?
  • What makes financial services so different?
  • Can banks position themselves as ‘ethical concierges’?

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Table of contents

  1. Introduction

      • Abbreviations
      • Executive Summary

          • Interest in green and ethical issues
            • The issues that matter are local, not global
              • Figure 1: Social, ethical and environmental concerns, September 2011
            • The disconnect between ethics and finance
              • Figure 2: Green and ethical activities, September 2011
            • Willingness to consider ethical issues in financial services
              • Three quarters haven’t investigated a financial services firm’s ethical credentials
                • Figure 3: Whether respondents have investigated financial firms' ethical credentials, September 2011
              • A third would at least consider a firm’s ethical credentials when arranging financial services products
                • Figure 4: Willingness to consider financial firms' ethical credentials, September 2011
              • Trusted brands
                • ‘Greenwash’ is a real fear for consumers
                  • Figure 5: Agreement with the statement ‘When financial services firms talk about being green or ethical, it’s usually just a PR stunt’, September 2011
                • Co-operative and Nationwide lead the way
                  • People who take a keen interest in ethical finance have a different viewpoint
                    • Attitudes towards ethical finance
                      • A quarter say they’d be prepared to pay more for products from ethical firms
                        • Figure 6: Agreement with the statement ‘I'm willing to pay a little extra for a product from a company that I know behaves ethically’, September 2011
                      • Three in ten express an active interest in ethical financial services
                        • Figure 7: Ethical target groups in financial services, September 2011
                      • What we think
                      • Issues in the Market

                          • Does apathy override good intentions?
                            • Who do the committed consumers trust?
                              • How do financial services firms override the mistrust?
                                • Do financial services brands have any credibility in their ethical claims?
                                  • What makes financial services so different?
                                    • Can banks position themselves as ‘ethical concierges’?
                                    • Future Opportunities

                                      • The luxury of being able to care
                                        • The moral bank: start small
                                        • Do People Trust Financial Services Firms to Behave Ethically?

                                          • Key points
                                            • The cynical consumer
                                              • Banks must contend with the suspicion of ‘greenwash’...
                                                • Figure 8: Agreement with the statement ‘When financial services firms talk about being green or ethical, it’s usually just a PR stunt’, September 2011
                                              • ...and with the legacy of past behaviour
                                                • There are some bright spots
                                                • Consumers’ Level of Ethical Engagement

                                                  • Key points
                                                    • How big is the Big Society?
                                                        • Figure 9: Green and ethical activities, September 2011
                                                      • How green is green?
                                                        • Figure 10: Repertoire of green and ethical activities, September 2011
                                                      • Even the hardcore haven’t switched their bank accounts
                                                          • Figure 11: Green and ethical activities, by repertoire of green and ethical activities, September 2011
                                                        • Is it easier to be green when you’ve got cash in the bank?
                                                          • Donating cash can be cheaper than donating time
                                                          • The Issues that Consumers Care About

                                                            • Key points
                                                              • Shifting from the global to the local…
                                                                  • Figure 12: Social, ethical and environmental concerns, September 2011
                                                                • …and the impact of the financial crisis
                                                                  • Setting an example for the rest of the industry to follow
                                                                    • A broad base of ethical concerns
                                                                      • Figure 13: Repertoire of social, ethical and environmental concerns, September 2011
                                                                    • Concerned – and taking action to address those concerns
                                                                        • Figure 14: Green and ethical activities, by repertoire of social, ethical and environmental concerns, September 2011
                                                                      • The contrasting fortunes of climate-related issues
                                                                          • Figure 15: Social, ethical and environmental concerns, by repertoire of social, ethical and environmental concerns, September 2011
                                                                        • It’s free to care – but it costs money to act on concerns
                                                                        • Investigating Firms’ Ethical Credentials

                                                                          • Key points
                                                                            • Financial services – an ethics-free zone?
                                                                              • Figure 16: Whether respondents have investigated financial firms' ethical credentials, September 2011
                                                                            • Worried, but not worried enough to read a company’s website
                                                                              • Figure 17: Whether respondents have investigated financial firms' ethical credentials, by repertoire of social, ethical and environmental concerns, September 2011
                                                                            • The financial blind spot among ethical consumers
                                                                              • Figure 18: Whether respondents have investigated financial firms' ethical credentials, by repertoire of green and ethical activities, September 2011
                                                                            • What makes financial services so different?
                                                                              • The affluent are more prepared to dig deeper
                                                                                • Youthful idealism combines with burgeoning financial requirements
                                                                                • Trusted Brands in the Financial Services Industry

                                                                                  • Key points
                                                                                    • Are they all the same?
                                                                                        • Figure 19: Trusted brands in the financial services industry, September 2011
                                                                                      • A tale of three mutuals
                                                                                        • The Co-op leads the way on unpromoted awareness...
                                                                                          • …but it’s not just the Co-op
                                                                                            • Banks more trusted than insurers to behave ethically
                                                                                              • ‘Banks’, or ‘my bank’?
                                                                                                • Does the Co-op need to freshen up its image among the young?
                                                                                                  • Opinions dramatically different among the most concerned
                                                                                                    • People are pleasantly surprised when they take the effort to find out more...
                                                                                                      • ...making communication absolutely vital
                                                                                                      • Willingness to Consider Ethical Issues when Arranging Financial Services

                                                                                                        • Key points
                                                                                                          • A third would at least consider ethical issues
                                                                                                            • Figure 20: Willingness to consider financial firms' ethical credentials, September 2011
                                                                                                          • Will good intentions translate into action?
                                                                                                            • A financial services firm’s ethical credentials are a non-issue for many
                                                                                                              • More evidence of a polarisation among consumers
                                                                                                                • Figure 21: Willingness to consider financial firms' ethical credentials, by repertoire of social, ethical and environmental concerns, September 2011
                                                                                                              • An important differentiator – but only for a minority of the population
                                                                                                                • Figure 22: Willingness to consider financial firms' ethical credentials, by repertoire of green and ethical activities, September 2011
                                                                                                              • Using ethics to attract the 25-34-year-olds
                                                                                                                • Who stands to benefit from the ethical advocates?
                                                                                                                  • Figure 23: Trusted brands in the financial services industry, by willingness to consider financial firms' ethical credentials, September 2011
                                                                                                              • Should Financial Firms Consider Ethical Issues?

                                                                                                                • Key points
                                                                                                                  • Think local, not global
                                                                                                                    • Figure 24: Attitudes towards business and ethics, September 2011
                                                                                                                  • A degree of sympathy for the amoral corporation…
                                                                                                                    • …with some looking for government to force the issue…
                                                                                                                      • …while others don’t trust companies to act on their own accord
                                                                                                                        • Broad agreement on localism – but opinions are split on broader social responsibilities
                                                                                                                          • Figure 25: Attitudes towards business and ethics, by repertoire of green and ethical activities, September 2011
                                                                                                                        • Further reason to publicise community work
                                                                                                                          • Figure 26: Attitudes towards business and ethics, by whether respondents have investigated financial firms' ethical credentials, September 2011
                                                                                                                        • An expectation that companies should be doing more
                                                                                                                          • Figure 27: Attitudes towards business and ethics, by willingness to consider financial firms' ethical credentials, September 2011
                                                                                                                      • Is an Ethical Brand Worth Paying More For?

                                                                                                                        • Key points
                                                                                                                          • Cynicism runs deep among consumers...
                                                                                                                            • Figure 28: Attitudes towards business and ethics, September 2011
                                                                                                                          • ...but some are prepared to pay a little extra
                                                                                                                            • Do tough economic times make ethics a luxury?
                                                                                                                              • Even the eco-warriors are wary of compromising performance
                                                                                                                                • Figure 29: Attitudes towards business and ethics, by repertoire of green and ethical activities, September 2011
                                                                                                                              • The paradox of the ethical researcher
                                                                                                                                • Figure 30: Attitudes towards business and ethics, by whether respondents have investigated financial firms' ethical credentials, September 2011
                                                                                                                              • But some are still prepared to pay a premium for a clear conscience
                                                                                                                                • Figure 31: Attitudes towards business and ethics, by willingness to consider financial firms' ethical credentials, September 2011
                                                                                                                            • Targeting the Ethical Consumer

                                                                                                                              • Key points
                                                                                                                                • Three in ten express an active interest in ethical financial services…
                                                                                                                                  • Figure 32: Ethical target groups in financial services, September 2011
                                                                                                                                • …but even the Idealists don’t necessarily trust financial services firms
                                                                                                                                    • Figure 33: Attitudes towards business and ethics, by target groups, September 2011
                                                                                                                                  • Local engagement could still sway the Cynics
                                                                                                                                      • Figure 34: Social, ethical and environmental concerns, by target groups, September 2011
                                                                                                                                    • The disconnect between day-to-day life…
                                                                                                                                      • Figure 35: Green and ethical activities, by target groups, September 2011
                                                                                                                                    • …and the world of financial services
                                                                                                                                        • Figure 36: Whether respondents have investigated financial firms' ethical credentials, by target groups, September 2011
                                                                                                                                      • The Idealists would consider ethical credentials…
                                                                                                                                          • Figure 37: Willingness to consider financial firms' ethical credentials, by target groups, September 2011
                                                                                                                                        • …if only they could trust the providers’ brand
                                                                                                                                            • Figure 38: Trusted brands in the financial services industry, by target groups, September 2011
                                                                                                                                        • Appendix – Consumers’ Level of Ethical Engagement

                                                                                                                                            • Figure 39: Repertoire of green and ethical activities, by demographics, September 2011
                                                                                                                                        • Appendix – The Issues that Consumers Care About

                                                                                                                                            • Figure 40: Repertoire of social, ethical and environmental concerns, by demographics, September 2011
                                                                                                                                            • Figure 41: Repertoire of social, ethical and environmental concerns, by demographics, September 2011
                                                                                                                                        • Appendix – Investigating Firms’ Ethical Credentials

                                                                                                                                            • Figure 42: Whether respondents have investigated financial firms' ethical credentials, by demographics, September 2011
                                                                                                                                        • Appendix – Trusted Brands in the Financial Services Industry

                                                                                                                                            • Figure 43: Average of most popular trusted brands in the financial services industry, by demographics, September 2011
                                                                                                                                            • Figure 44: Average of next most popular trusted brands in the financial services industry, by demographics, September 2011
                                                                                                                                            • Figure 45: Average of other trusted brands in the financial services industry, by demographics, September 2011
                                                                                                                                            • Figure 46: Trusted brands in the financial services industry, by repertoire of social, ethical and environmental concerns, September 2011
                                                                                                                                            • Figure 47: Trusted brands in the financial services industry, by repertoire of green and ethical activities, September 2011
                                                                                                                                            • Figure 48: Trusted brands in the financial services industry, by whether respondents have investigated financial firms' ethical credentials, September 2011
                                                                                                                                        • Appendix – Willingness to Consider Ethical Issues When Arranging Financial Products

                                                                                                                                            • Figure 49: Willingness to consider financial firms' ethical credentials, by demographics, September 2011
                                                                                                                                        • Appendix – Should Financial Firms Consider Ethical Issues

                                                                                                                                            • Figure 50: Agreement with the statement ‘Companies should concentrate on local issues before they start worrying about things like global warming or third world debt’, by demographics, September 2011
                                                                                                                                            • Figure 51: Agreement with the statement ‘A company’s job is to make money, not to save the world’, by demographics, September 2011
                                                                                                                                        • Appendix – Is an Ethical Brand Worth Paying More For?

                                                                                                                                            • Figure 52: Agreement with the statement ‘When financial services firms talk about being green or ethical, it’s usually just a PR stunt’, by demographics, September 2011
                                                                                                                                            • Figure 53: Agreement with the statement ‘When I’m arranging a financial services product, all I really care about is how well it performs’, by demographics, September 2011
                                                                                                                                            • Figure 54: Agreement with the statement ‘I'm willing to pay a little extra for a product from a company that I know behaves ethically’, by demographics, September 2011
                                                                                                                                        • Appendix – Targeting the Ethical Consumer

                                                                                                                                            • Figure 55: Target groups, by demographics, September 2011

                                                                                                                                        Companies Covered

                                                                                                                                        • Aldi Stores Ltd (UK & Ireland)
                                                                                                                                        • American Express Company (The)
                                                                                                                                        • Asda Group Ltd
                                                                                                                                        • Aviva Plc
                                                                                                                                        • AXA UK plc
                                                                                                                                        • Barclays Bank plc
                                                                                                                                        • British Sky Broadcasting Group plc (BSkyB)
                                                                                                                                        • Churchill Insurance
                                                                                                                                        • Co-operative Group
                                                                                                                                        • Direct Line Group Limited
                                                                                                                                        • Furness Building Society
                                                                                                                                        • Goldman Sachs Group, Inc., The
                                                                                                                                        • Grupo Santander Central Hispano S.A.
                                                                                                                                        • Halifax Mortgage Services
                                                                                                                                        • HSBC Private Bank (UK) Limited
                                                                                                                                        • J. Sainsbury
                                                                                                                                        • Lidl (UK)
                                                                                                                                        • Lloyds Banking Group
                                                                                                                                        • LV=
                                                                                                                                        • Marks & Spencer
                                                                                                                                        • mmO2 plc
                                                                                                                                        • MORE TH>N
                                                                                                                                        • Nationwide Building Society
                                                                                                                                        • NatWest
                                                                                                                                        • Netto Foodstores Ltd
                                                                                                                                        • Orange plc (UK)
                                                                                                                                        • Sainsbury's Bank
                                                                                                                                        • T-Mobile (UK) Ltd
                                                                                                                                        • Tesco Plc
                                                                                                                                        • The Ecology Building Society
                                                                                                                                        • Triodos Bank
                                                                                                                                        • Virgin Media Ltd
                                                                                                                                        • Virgin Mobile
                                                                                                                                        • Vodafone Group Plc (UK)
                                                                                                                                        • Waitrose Ltd
                                                                                                                                        • Wm Morrison Supermarkets

                                                                                                                                        Consumer Attitudes towards Green and Ethical Finance - UK - November 2011

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