The Crouching Tiger - LOHAS Hits the Shores of Taiwan
In the last issue of the LOHAS Journal we reported on the spread of the LOHAS concept overseas to Japan. LOHAS is becoming increasingly popular in Asian countries.
With the strong influence from pop culture of Japan and Korea as well as the North America LOHAS has definitely hit Taiwan’s shores in a big way. One can find magazines, department store ads and even store brands using LOHAS as their main branding and marketing campaign. There are even department stores and restaurants called LOHAS and sell LOHAS branded products with definitions of ‘Cultural Creatives’ translated into Chinese.
Considered one of the ‘Four Tigers’ of East Asia and labeled so for being one of the nations that has maintained a high economic growth rates from the 1960’s to present day. Taiwan is a country that is one of the top economic powers in the region. The other ‘Tigers’ are South Korea, Hong Kong and Singapore. Taiwan has had a steady average 6% economic growth rate since the mid 1990’s and survived the Asian economic crisis the best out of all Asian nations. The rise of its economy and emphasis on education has developed a fast growing middle class that is recently been questioning the path that the country has taken to get to where it is. Unbridled economic growth usually comes with a price to the environment and heath of people.
A recent study from the Environmental Sustainability Index (ESI), produced by Yale and Columbia Universities listed Taiwan 143 of 144 countries surveyed and only ranking higher than North Korea. Many of Taiwan’s environmental issues are linked to its dense population of 23 million over 14,000 square miles. This averages out to approximately 1600 people per square mile making it one of the most densely populated countries on earth.
The positive thing about this is that there is no other way to go other than up and in spite of all the environmental difficulties LOHAS gaining traction in Taiwan. The public is putting pressure on business and government to implement change in current business and policy standards. The government is working to improve its environmental issues by enforcing stringent recycling and energy efficiency rules for businesses and the public. Currently they are developing a hydrogen scooter project they hope to implement commercially in the near future. The demand for organic foods and new ways of approaching life in a simple and holistic way is on the rise. Health and well-being is a very important component of Chinese culture. The country has a long-standing tradition of Buddhism and vegetarian cuisine is readily available. But many Taiwanese relate vegan and vegetarian diets to the Buddhist religion. Organic food advocates want to promote organics as an alternative way to eat healthy without the religious connotations. Organics currently is a very small portion of the total agrarian output. Of that percentage 50% is imported. Granted this is small but there is huge potential for growth. Yoga is on the rise also in Taiwan at an average growth of 10% per year and there is an increase in male yoga students compared to years past. Yoga studios are popular and more and more are appearing around the busy subway stations.
Green building is being taught on University campuses and new building developments. Environmental awareness is being taught in elementary schools and rice companies are promoting organic rice farming. Hotels are promoting themselves as green by promoting their low energy consumption and organic food menus. It is clear that Taiwan nationals want to live healthier lifestyles and educate is population about the benefits of LOHAS.
“The term ‘organic’ is much more related to health here.” Says Joseph Steyr of Organic Lifestyles Magazine Taiwan. “We want to teach people that it is more than that and that it is more holistic.” Organic Lifestyles is run by the P&S International Advertising Agency (PSIAA), an advertising agency that now focuses on promoting organics throughout the nation. PSIAA hosted the first Taiwan vegetarian expo last year and plans to expand and host the country’s first organics expo later this year.
Since LOHAS is such a new concept it brings with it new challenges to how companies view business. New avenues of sustainable sourcing need to be developed and policy change need to be implemented. Currently new distribution lines from organic farms to stores are being developed and organic certifications are in place. Internationally known beauty line brands such as Aveda and Jurlique have prominent storefronts in department stores. As LOHAS becomes popular the demand for value-based products are anticipated to drive innovations in business practice thus improving health and environment.
“The cost for organics and natural products is close to double that of conventional products. However it is not out of people’s price range.” says Zhu Ping, president of Aveda Taiwan. “We are here and we are surviving.” The cost of an Aveda salon treatment tends to be more expensive and is considered a high-end salon. “Our customers know how we care about their experience. We are not just about money but about lifestyle.”
Many Taiwanese are interested in developing relations with companies familiar with LOHAS and are very eager to learn more about sustainable business practices partly our of necessity but mostly from sincerity. “We are looking for partners” Says Tom Xiao, editor and chief of Organic Lifestyle Magazine, “We want the world to know about the opportunities in Taiwan and educate Taiwanese how to live better lives. LOHAS brings a traditional concept to a modern audience. Our ancestors lived simply and in harmony with nature. It is part of Chinese philosophy. LOHAS provides the opportunity to show this to the younger generations in a trendy and fashionable way.”
The literal translation of LOHAS into Chinese means ‘happy life’ and it appears that Taiwan Chinese want to live a traditional lifestyle with a modern twist.