CSR and Communication Manager in Goodbrand & Company Poland. For over two years editor-in-chief of "CR Navigator". Earlier in the key Polish marketing magazine "Brief", where most recently she was an Issue Editor. Holds an MA from the Warsaw University Psychology Department, studied also at the Madrid Autonomous University. A contributing writer for Gazeta Wyborcza, the main Polish newspaper. Worked with the the Spoken History Museum.
It started with YUPPIES, "young urban professionals". Then came the DINKS, or "double income no kids". Every now and again market trend researchers identify the next hot target group from big cities, a group that all brands should compete for. For quite some time the "it" group have been the LOHAS consumers.
The term was coined by American sociologists at the turn of the 20th century. It is an abbreviation for "lifestyles of health and sustainability" and denotes consumers interested in health, environment, social justice, sustainable lifestyle and personal development. Lohas consumers choose products according to their social and environmental value. According to estimates almost one fifth of Americans (over 40 million people) can be qualified as Lohasians – the market they make up is worth around 209 million dollars.
We develop in harmony
Sectors of the market, used to evaluate the Lohas market, are Fair Trade and organic products, green architecture, sustainable investments, eco-tourism or alternative energy sources. Apart from reducing their own negative influence upon the environment, Lohas consumers are very much set on personal development and using their potential to its fullest. A notion of balance is key to understanding the group. Balance as far as giving to and taking from environment is concerned, as well as balance between body and soul. Lohasians are keen on yoga, spend a lot of time outdoors and like to use natural medicine.
We are not radical
Unlike other groups interested in ecology and sustainable development Lohasians are not radical. They do not tie themselves to trees, nor do they chain themselves to ships, like Greenpeace activists. They do not paint themselves in leopard patches, nor do they wear fake tails, like PETA supporters. They do not give up on fridges and forage for food in dumpsters like Freegans, who try to protest against wasting food. Lohas consumers do not organise demonstrations in front of institutions, and do not attack anybody with buckets of paint. A testimony to Lohasians’ beliefs is their own sustainable lifestyle.
It would be wrong to assume, though, that since the group is so peaceful, the wrong-doing companies can be at ease. Lohasians are affluent and well educated, have vast social networks and use internet willingly. They can, therefore, not only ostracise a company as consumers, but also be very vocal about criticising it, especially since a lot of Lohas consumers are involved in media and PR. It is, therefore, much more profitable to reach out to them. Especially since active Lohasians are keen on rewarding companies who assume a new model of socially responsible business. According to research conducted by Natural Marketing Institute Lohas consumers are willing to pay even up to 20% more for a product more sustainable than its traditional version.
Business is shaped by consumers
What started as marketing jargon has slowly attained a more real form. Once the new group of customers has been identified, new companies and associations, defining themselves as "Lohas-friendly", started to appear. They practise responsible capitalism, by which they mean they supply goods and services based on sustainable practise, transparency and honesty.
Lohas-friendly associations are, among others, American Solar Energy Society (ASES), Social Venture Network (SVN), Business for Social Responsibility (BSR) or The International Ecotourism Society (TIES). A full list of organisations can be found on www.lohas.com
Eco-drinks for everyone
Representatives of Lohas-friendly associations and companies meet at annual conferences, during which the newest market trends are discussed. They share ideas and inspirations as to how to run a business in sustainable as well as profitable ways. Lohas forum – which, apart from business and non-governmental organisations – attracts media and people from academic circles is organised according to the philosophy it promotes: during breaks attendants of the meeting eat ecological meals, test sustainable gadgets, attend yoga workshops and even drink eco-drinks. One can taste all these delights during the nearest Forum, which is about to take place in Boulder, Colorado, 22nd to 24th of June 2011.
To see as a Lohasian
Although the movement has first been identified in the USA, Lohas consumers are truly powerful on the Old Continent. Natural Marketing Institute, along with Porter Novelli conducted a research into European Lohasians. The research project started in July 2007. 16,000 people from Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Holland, Portugal, Spain and UK were examined.
European results were compared with American ones. And? As it turns out, 50% more Europeans than Americans declare interest in "green" products, such as solar batteries, hybrid cars, organic food, environmentally friendly cosmetics or household equipment. 25% more Europeans sort out their waste, 30% more are keen to try and convince their friends or family to take up pro-ecological behaviour; 32% more are motivated to purchase if a product has a stamp or certificate marking it as ecological – that clearly shows how important it is for brands or companies to be authentic and transparent; 25% more Europeans than Americans declare that a company, apart from making money for its shareholders, should also take into account its influence upon natural environment. Higher level of involvement of Europeans in sustainable way of living might be a result of many years of activities, undertaken by governments of European countries in promoting care about the natural environment.
Poles are not behind?
Lohas market potential is visible in Poland, too. According to Diagnoza społeczna 2007 research (Social diagnosis 2007), conducted by Janusz Grzelak and Janusz Czapiński, over a third of consumers buy products that have as little negative impact on environment as possible, over 60% declare that they separate waste, and 67% attempt to dispose of old batteries and other potentially harmful products by putting them into special containers.
All of those declarations are fine, but the truth is that even in such districts of Warsaw as affluent Kabaty or Żoliborz, inhabited by intelligentsia, one would be hard pressed to find special disposal containers for batteries. Many people do not segregate garbage and do not dispose of chemically harmful products properly, simply because no special containers are available. Perhaps it is high time to make it possible for Poles to become true Lohasians.