“Stop, children, what’s that sound? Everybody look what’s going down.”
Buffalo Springfield’s chart-topping protest song entitled “For What It’s Worth,” written by Stephen Stills and released in 1967, anticipated social turbulence and confrontations of the late 1960s. This anthem has been often associated with fervor of that time; yet today it resonates as a memorable melodic signature of momentous societal and cultural change.
This classic folk-rock song kept running through my mind as I listened to dozens of speakers articulating context for another revolution. The 13th annual LOHAS Forum at the St. Julian Hotel in Boulder, Colorado, June 17 – 19, 2009, showcased impassioned visionaries who are humming notes of historic change in the way this nation consumes and discards — how we choose to live our lives in a time of global warning, economic turmoil, diminishing natural resources, and population explosion. Dramatic and determined thought-leaders possess many unique points of view, but they share a familiar message: an influential, irrevocable transformation is underway.
LOHAS, an acronym that stands for Lifestyles of Health & Sustainability, is a lifestyle and consumer cohort identified in the late 1990’s, which has grown to become a $209 billion global market segment. Consumers described as LOHAS are passionate about sustainability, health & wellness, personal development, resource conservation, corporate social responsibility, social justice, and natural/organic living.
According to Natural Marketing Institute (NMI), the Pennsylvania-based company that has for years conducted groundbreaking original research describing this segment, LOHAS consumers comprise 17% of the U.S. population. The Boomer generation over-represents the segment: 21% of Boomers are LOHAS consumers (24% higher than average).
An intrinsic connection between Boomers and LOHAS becomes more obvious when considering historical context. Launched on April 22, 1970, birth of Earth Day, the modern environmental movement barnstormed a nation through myriad protest marches and civic activism of this generation. Boomers created overwhelming political pressure, leading to the Environmental Protection Agency and passage by Congress of the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts. In conjunction with awakening to environmentalism, Boomers found sustenance in organic and natural foods popularized by nutritionist and author Adelle Davis; discovered the viabilities of aerobic fitness from running advocate Dr. Kenneth Cooper; and immersed deeper into spirituality with wise counsel from new gurus such as Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. From among their ranks came LOHAS-style businesses such as Wild Oats, Whole Foods, Starbucks, Stonyfield Farms, Silk Milk, and Celestial Seasonings.
As NMI proposes, the substantial influence of LOHAS consumers turns the 80/20 rule upside down. Also known as the Pareto Principle, this economic imperative maintains that 80% of a company’s income typically comes from 20% of its customers. Opinionated, outspoken, omnipresent and representing nearly 20% of the U.S. population, LOHAS consumers today are shaping core eco-values of 80% of the population. 80/20 has become 20/80.
This also leads to a new business imperative: pay attention to LOHAS consumers and their evolving preferences and behaviors; anticipate trends that will soon emerge broadly in the national population. LOHAS consumers are a fountainhead of what’s to come in the marketplace. They are precursors… progenitors.
An intense, mind-spinning emersion into the future of western lifestyles and consumerism, The LOHAS Forum cannot be condensed into a single post. Here I've posted some representative insights and comments from those who are leading the charge toward “responsible capitalism”: the men and women driven by deep-seated commitment to global sustainability and human health.
In the early 1990s, industrialist Ray Anderson experienced an epiphany when reading Paul Hawken’s The Ecology of Commerce. His carpet manufacturing company, Interface Global, Inc., the world’s largest manufacturer of commercial floor coverings, is nearly half way to achieving his vision of “Mission Zero” – zero scraps into landfills and zero emissions into the ecosystem.
Embodied Energy: the energy actually expended to create a tangible product
Biophilia: the nearly universal human desire to be outside in nature and to experience serene moments
“The cheapest energy is the energy not used.”
“You can’t create green products in a brown company.”
“Sustainability can be the most significant competitive advantage in a recessionary economy.”
“LOHAS means more happiness with less stuff.”
Steve French is Executive Vice President and Managing Partner of Natural Marketing Institute, the research firm that has played a leading role in defining, tracking and articulating the LOHAS segment.
Current hurdles to LOHAS adoption:
1) Price sensitivity due to economic recession
2) Trust in companies because of proliferating “green” marketing messages
3) Product selection: finding environmentally friendly packaging and products across all categories
4) Sacrifice avoidance: increasing unwillingness to buy higher-priced, environmentally friendly products
5) Conflicting desire to reduce all consumption, even sustainably manufactured products
6) Time scarcity: consumers do not have time to investigate company claims of social responsibility and sustainability
President and founder of Natural Capitalism Solutions, Hunter Lovins educates senior decision-makers in the areas of sustainable development, globalization, energy and resource policy, economic development, climate change, and land management.
350 ppm: the level scientists have identified as the safe upper limit for carbon dioxide in the earth’s atmosphere; scientists measured 385 ppm in the 2007 atmosphere
Green buildings improve labor relations, health, worker productivity and business efficiencies. This has been demonstrated empirically by none-other-than Wal-Mart and the giant retailer’s new holistic green initiatives.
Business needs a new business case for survival, which Lovins calls Climate Capitalism.
Wade Davis, Ph.D.
Wade Davis is an Explorer-in-Residence for the National Geographic Society. He has been described as “a rare combination of scientist, scholar, poet and passionate defender of all of life’s diversity.” Author of nine books, including the international bestseller, “The Serpent and the Rainbow,” Davis is indeed a poet’s scientist and a scientist’s poet who shares impactful stories about the world’s vanishing cultures.
“Together the myriad of cultures of the world make up an intellectual, social and spiritual web of life that envelopes the planet and is as important to wellbeing of the planet as is the biologic web of life that you know as a biosphere.”
“You can think of this cultural web of life as being an ethnosphere, and you can define the ethnosphere as being the sum total of all thoughts, ideas, beliefs, and intuitions brought into being by the human imagination since the dawn of consciousness.”
“The ethnosphere is humanity’s legacy and a symbol of all that we’ve achieved and the promise of all that we can achieve as a wildly creative species.”
“When each of you in this room was born, there were 7,000 languages spoken on earth. Now a language isn’t just a body of vocabulary or set of grammatical rules; a language is a flash of the human spirit. It’s a vehicle to which the soul of each particular culture comes into the material world. Every language is an old-growth forest of the mind, a watershed of thought, an ecosystem of social and spiritual possibilities. And of those 7,000 languages spoken the day you were born, today fully half are on their way to extinction.”
Listen to CBS Radio’s “Massey Lectures,” entitled The Wayfinders, to discover more about Wade Davis’ astounding insights connecting the value of ancient wisdom with our modern lives.
Hunter Lovins articulated one essential ethos of the LOHAS movement: “Real leadership is extraordinary courage by ordinary people.” Like Lovins, many of the movement’s leaders are also Boomers who for several decades have been drawing the battle lines between those who waste and exploit and those who preserve and protect natural and cultural resources for the future.
The people who belong to the LOHAS movement are certainly extraordinary — and often courageous. They are visionaries inspiring ordinary people to do amazing things: to bring sustainability into mainstream value consensus; to change our national focus from wasteful consumerism to “conscious” or “conscience consumerism”; and to motivate the next generation of leaders to be creative, bold and committed to restoring the nation’s fundamental values of preservation, idealism and individual initiative.
A generation ago, folk-rocker Stephen Stills sang, “There’s something happening here; what it is ain’t exactly clear.” The journey toward a healthier, less materialistic, more altruistic and sustainable society isn’t always clear.
But it’s happening.
Additional General Session Speakers:
Ted Ning: Director, LOHAS
Gwynne Rogers: Lohas Business Director, Natural Marketing Institute
John Marshall Roberts
John Marshall Roberts: Author, Igniting Inspiration
Robyn Griggs Lawrence
Robyn Griggs Lawrence: Editor-in-Chief, Natural Home magazine
Adam Lowry: Co-Founder, Method
Wolf Ludge: CEO, hessnatur
Mallika Chopra: Founder, Intent.com
Adam Werbach: Global CEO, Saatchi & Saatchi S