Ethical fair trading has emerged as the top issue for UK consumers making purchasing decisions, according to a market research survey.

The survey, undertaken by TNS on behalf of Deloitte, also revealed that UK women were more ethically minded than men and that the most ethical regions were the South East and Yorkshire.

Deloitte said that 59% of consumers think about ethics and green issues while shopping and making purchases.

The poll surveyed 1010 adults in the UK in September 2006 about their attitudes to purchasing items for Christmas and in the New Year, including presents, gadgets, turkeys and mince pies, based on social, ethical, nutritional and environmental considerations.

When asked to rank what is most important when making purchase decisions, supporting local producers or shops also figured highly for both men and women.

Avoiding GM products was ranked tenth most important by both men and women, of less concern to consumers than animal welfare, product safety and environmental impact.

Those consumers who think about ethics and green issues while shopping were found to be typically the younger and the older age groups, according to the research, which found that 65% of 16-24 and 63% of 45-54 year olds were most likely to purchase food and gifts based on ethical and environmental concerns.

Lawrence Hutter, partner in consulting at Deloitte, said: "This year the message to retailers and manufacturers is that consumers are increasingly aware of their individual social responsibilities.

"While more and more companies are introducing 'green' lines in a bid to 'outgreen' one another, companies such as Marks and Spencer - with their 'look behind the label' campaign - show this new group of customers is already a significant revenue stream."