LONDON: Marks & Spencer, the Co-operative Bank and John Lewis are among the UK brands perceived as boasting strong ethical credentials, a study has found.

Goodbrand, the consultancy, surveyed 5,000 adults, and reported that 19% of respondents could be described as "highly ethical", with two-thirds of this group made up of high-earning ABC1 consumers.

It asked those shoppers most engaged with this issue to rate 300 brands on six social equity relationships - with communities, customers, the environment, society, suppliers and their workforce.

Based on an index where 100 points was an average performance, supermarkets scored at least 150 points on all the metrics assessed except the "customer" category, registering 120 points.

Marks & Spencer led the supermarket charts, topping 205 points on each measure. Mike Barry, M&S's head of sustainable business, argued 10% of consumers are "passionately ethical" and 70% simply look for a brand they can trust.

"It is those 70% that matter enormously to us and getting them to buy into the M&S brand," he told Marketing Week.

The financial services industry recorded 167 points on the "community" index and 120 points for "society", but yielded 80 points or below elsewhere, with the Co-operative Bank claiming first place, while RBS struggled.

High-street retailers generated the best scores in terms of their approach to customers, posting 120 points on average, with department store chain John Lewis leading this category overall.

Ecover headed the household cleaning segment, Innocent smoothies were the top-ranking soft drink, and Divine Chocolate - an early-mover concerning Fairtrade practices - was the pre-eminent confectionery offering.

"When it comes to marketing chocolate, the priorities are taste and product variety," Charlotte Borger, Divine's head of communications, said. "For many chocolate lovers, ethical considerations will be secondary to this."

Steve Clarke, marketing director of Rachel's Organic Dairy, the best-regarded player in the dairy sector, similarly suggested this issue was not the primary driver of success.

"We do not make it a central principle in our marketing activities to push the ethical message," he said. "From time to time we have used it."

Data sourced from Marketing Week; additional content by Warc staff