The annual gathering of thought and opinion leaders in the LOHAS arena (Lifestyles Of Health And Sustainability) convened last week in Santa Monica and addressed “the $228.9 billion U.S. marketplace for goods and services focused on health, the environment, social justice, personal development and sustainable living,” according to the press release announcing the conference.
“Sustainability” seems to warrant many definitions, and last week’s forum even presented polling results on the array of public perceptions of the term, but a working definition might be: The conduct of life and business in such a way that the present generation can live – and thrive – without compromising the ability of future generations to do the same. Or, as stated by GAIAM, one of the forum’s principal sponsors, “our inspiration is helping you be health conscious and eco-conscious at the same time.”
The “LOHAS 10” event, celebrating the forum’s 10th anniversary, was held at the Fairmont Miramar Hotel on April 26, 27 and 28, and offered speakers and panel discussions, multi-media presentations, exercise sessions, entertainment (including Joan Baez), a film screening and a busy exhibit room to the 600 confirmed attendees.
Among the featured speakers was Niel Golightly, the Director of Sustainable Business Strategies at Ford Motor Company, whose Escape hybrid automobile was the other principal sponsor of the forum. On Thursday, he discussed “Sustainability and the Future of Business.”
Friday morning, over 400 listeners heard Steve Case, co-founder of AOL and now chairman of Revolution Living, reflect on his experience in helping to launch the online revolution and suggest the path to a LOHAS revolution. After his principal address, he brought Michael Crooke, formerly of Patagonia and now founding CEO at Revolution Living, to the stage with him. “It is not enough to be eco-groovy,” Crooke told the audience. One must first have “a good product or service and be LOHAS,” Case stressed.
Gwynne Rogers from the Natural Marketing Institute presented that firm’s latest LOHAS market research results to the conference. She explained that a useful analysis of the market for LOHAS goods and services required a “psychographic” rather than the more conventional demographic breakdown, and she offered a distribution of the U.S. adult population, shown in the chart accompanying this article, depicting LOHAS consumers (who respond to the whole package), naturalites (who watch their own health more than the health of the planet or the other guy), drifters (who talk a good game but don’t really spend accordingly), conventionals (as in basic liberal establishment types) and unconcerned (and everybody in the audience knew who they were). Rogers applied this and other research to the marketing of LOHAS goods and services.
The LOHAS forum was a gathering of businesses that not only provide products and services to today’s LOHAS market but that also want to grow that market. Aiming at a broader customer base, the companies at the Miramar last week clearly wanted, in the words of Mr. Case, to “do everything possible to get people to make the right choices.”