LOHAS Highlights Love and Profit as Motivation to Sustainability
By Claudine Schneider, Ethical Markets Advisory Board member and correspondent
Report on the June 2013 LOHAS Conference, Boulder, Colorado
“You protect what you fall in love with”, so said one of the featured presenters at the recent LOHAS conference (Lifestyles of Health & Sustainability), Louie Schwartzberg (MovingArt.com)– an award winning cinematographer, director and producer. His breathtaking visuals of nature in all its splendor and his heartfelt messages of gratitude left the audience remembering ‘what they were really about….sustaining our planet through innovative, win-win business ventures’. Louie’s interpretation of ‘the story’ is one of cooperation – not predator versus prey!
That was reflected in many of the stories to follow …even the tale of Honest Tea! Who knew that they were the nation’s top selling organic, fair trade, bottled tea? Their acquisition by Coca-Cola in 2011, 14 years after having been started in Seth Goldman’s kitchen, now enables Honest Tea to be available in more than 100,000 outlets …and still maintain their product’s integrity and responsible support of suppliers in India, China and South Korea. Not predatory corporate vs. small business – but rather a collaboration.
And then there was John Paul Selects-which is an online platform for businesses that give back. It was co-founded by John Paul DeJoria and Jonathan Kendrick who was on hand to scout for emerging sustainable brands and manufacturers whom they might assist with business development, marketing and deployment. We’ve all heard or seen TV’s ‘Shark Tank”. Well, it appears that John Paul Selects is a kinder, gentler version that focuses on sustainable product excellence.
Moving from incubation to symbiosis – to carry the nature model further – the founders of Ecover and Method shared their merger story that was based on the shared values of the two companies. Method’s co-founder made it clear that “business is our greatest vehicle for positive social and environmental change”.
That was later verified by the Natural Marketing Institute whose research indicated an increasing alignment of consumption with values – whether it be an organic lunch choice, a Fair Trade birthday gift or shifting one’s investments into the Socially Responsible Family of investment funds. He highlighted the 78 million ‘baby boomers’ who continue to be a driving force in both production and consumption of LOHAS-type products and services and who are thinking more of the future as their grandchildren play a larger role in their value assessments. However, the Gen Ys (energized by the anti-GMO movement) and Hispanics (who would spend $5.-$20.00 more for green energy) are making up an increasing part of those leading or following this sustainability path.
The Green Business Network (part of Green America-formerly Co-Op America) lent further evidence of this rapidly growing trend with their recent survey of 1,305 small businesses. ”The greener the business, the greener the bottom line!” In addition, over the last 10 years:
The green building market grew by 1,700%…and the conventional building market contracted by 17%!
The organic food market increased by 238%…compared to the non-organic market’s expansion of only 33%.
And sales of green products and services actually increased over the recent economic downturn…and the more green, the higher the sales!
While many of the attendees concurred with the earlier statement that “business is our greatest vehicle for positive social and environmental change”, 91-year old (no, not a mis-print), Debra Szekely, founder of the Golden Door Spa, was not willing to stop there. Business alone – without political action – cannot have the force necessary for rapid, substantial change!
Szekely announced the formation of the Wellness Warrior.org – a health and wellness social media movement that has created the first Wellness Political Action Committee. Her urgently needed message and political activism is essential now in the halls of Congress. Led by republicans, this congress has not only neglected the environment, but has also, despite their appreciation for the ‘old’ and fiscal conservancy (to the point of stagnating our economy), forgotten the adage: ”An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure!” Whether we’re talking about preventing climate change or the plethora of illnesses that plague our people and planet – the time is now for the Wellness Warriors!
For me, the excitement of the LOHAS conference, much like my excitement in nature, was found in the diversity…of young and old; large companies and small; the haves and the have-nots; the idea/solutions people and the seekers…and of course what held it all together was the tangible vibrancy and commitment to make our world a better, more sustainable, fair and just place to not only live, but to thrive!