More Details on LOHAS Consumers from the Natural Marketing Institute

In an earlier post, I profiled the presentation of Steve French of the Natural Marketing Institute, given at day one of the 2010 LOHAS Conference in beautiful Boulder, CO, about the state of the LOHAS consumer, and the trends among the five consumer types that NMI characterizes, from deep green to non-green.  Gwynne Rogers, who also works at the Natural Marketing Institute, followed the presentation with more details on the consumer segment known as LOHAS, and how they are changing over time in terms of the issues that matter to them, where they’re willing to spend money, and what this all might mean to companies looking to market to this wealthy and savvy demographic.  Some of the findings of her study were fairly surprising, like the fact that the percentage of people who say they care about the environment has actually declined over the last few years.  A pro-environmental attitude is declining over time, though consumers in the study were found to increasingly think sustainability is here to stay and are less apathetic than they used to be.

Climate change and overpopulation are generally picking up steam in terms of consumer concern, but other issues seem to be declining.

The study also found that consumers mostly care about avoiding impurities.  When asked what environmental issues they were most concerned with, the top 7 were mostly about personal health:

1.  food safety
2.  water quality
3.  hazardous materials
4.  safety of us meat supply
5.  pollution from cars and trucks
6.  water conservation
7.  deforestation.

Regarding the uptick in climate change awareness and concern, the NMI started asking in 2003 if people were concerned about climate change.  Since then, there’s been a roughly +3% compound annual growth (CAG), with sentiment peaking around the time of An Inconvenient Truth.

Certain other environmental behaviors also increased.  Perhaps most surprising, the study found that many consumers now bring a reusable bag to the store (48% of people now do) (CAG of +30% over 6 years) and boycotting a brand (~46%) (CAG +18%).  Both issues continue to gain momentum.

When they analyzed environmental behaviors by reason for doing them, NMI found that relatively few green ‘things’ are done only for health (bike to work, eat organic).  More are done to protect the environment (bring bag to grocery store, for example).   But most are done to save money (i.e., turn down thermostat, conserve water, use public transit, carpool, use CFL’s, etc.).  With the downturn in the economy, these findings are not that surprising.

When asked about corporate social responsibility, consumer sentiment is down.  When asked if they agreed with the following phrase:  “It is important for companies not just to be profitable, but to be mindful of their impact on the environment and society,”  80% in 2006 agreed.  72% did in 2009.

Perhaps most stark, market sentiment has really changed on one thing–it used to be that eco-friendly products could work slightly less well than their alternatives, but now more than half of people expect them to work just as well, or they won’t buy them again.

Scott Cooney is reporting live from Boulder, Colorado, at the LOHAS Forum.

Scott Cooney, Principal of GreenBusinessOwner.com and author of Build a Green Small Business: Profitable Ways to Become an Ecopreneur (McGraw-Hill, November 2008), is also a serial ecopreneur who has started and grown several green businesses and consulted several other green startups. He co-founded the ReDirect Guide, a green business directory, in Salt Lake City, UT. He greened his home in Salt Lake City, including xeriscaping, an organic orchard, extra natural fiber insulation, a 1.8kW solar PV array, on-demand hot water, energy star appliances, and natural paints. He is a vegetarian, an avid cyclist, ultimate frisbee player, and surfer, and currently lives in the sunny Mission district of San Francisco. Scott is working on his second book, a look at microeconomics in the green sector.In June 2010, Scott launched GreenBusinessOwner.com, a sustainability consulting firm dedicated to providing solutions to common business problems by leveraging the power of the triple bottom line. Focused exclusively on small business, GBO's mission is to facilitate the creation and success of small, green businesses.

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