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Why Conscious Lifestyles are Blossoming in Southeast Asia


Across the ASEAN region, where people are directly impacted by environmental issues, a new generation of ‘consciouslites’ are stepping up, Hakuhodo’s Devi Attamimi tells Laura Swinton

Why Conscious Lifestyles are Blossoming in Southeast Asia

The world over, more and more people are starting to consider how their lifestyles and consumption habits are impact upon the environment and the people around them. Greta Thunberg and Extinction Rebellion have helped to shape the agenda and encourage people to act.

But the behavior patterns and drivers beneath these conscious lifestyles are not uniform. Fascinating new research from the Hakuhodo Institute of Life and Living ASEAN (HILL ASEAN) reveals that in Southeast Asia, these so-called ‘consciouslites’ have come to this lifestyle from a unique and local perspective. 

The study took in Thailand, Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia, Vietnam, Philippines. It found that, while the traditional understanding of the conscious lifestyle is that it’s motivated by abstract concepts like ‘saving the planet’, in ASEAN nations it’s more likely to be driven by the fact that people are experiencing the negative impact of pollution and environmental degradation, and that they care about their families and communities.

LBB’s Laura Swinton spoke to Devi Attamimi, Institute Director of Hakuhodo Institute of Life and Living ASEAN (HILL ASEAN), to find out more.

LBB> What inspired this research into 'conscious ASEANS'?

Devi> HILL ASEAN is a think tank at Hakuhodo that studies the progress of society. Using a thorough research we discover the movements of trends that will have a big impact on the future of society. In 2019 we identified that increasingly people are becoming more conscious in their decision-making journey. 

The rise of movements such as 'Bye Bye Plastic' and 'Save the Turtle' are evidence of people pay more attention towards the impact of their consumption behaviour. Using this as a hypothesis we dived deep and collected quantitative and qualitative data to reveal society’s hidden desires and changing mind set.

LBB> What were the most surprising findings?

Devi> That ASEAN society has a different set of drivers and attitudes when it comes to the conscious lifestyle, certainly when we compare them to the more conventional concept and understanding. And we found that 78% of the population are aware of these issues, with 86% of them proactively adopt a conscious lifestyle. This is the fact that most brands and marketer have not yet realised. 

LBB> What do you think is driving this rise?

Devi> Conventionally, the drivers are more likely to be around saving the earth, whereas in ASEAN the drivers are usually about something much more closer to them. i.e. their family, local community or their countries. 

ASEAN countries are among those impacted most severely by environmental and habitual issues. For example lack of clean water, pollution, flood and dirty beaches. People there live in the problem. Hence ASEANs are changing their habits to become more conscious because of something that is ‘near and dear’ to them. 

LBB> What were some of the key differences between the various countries covered in the study? How do their different cultures interact with this conscious lifestyle?

Devi> We can see from the data that developing countries have higher awareness of the conscious lifestyle and are more likely to actively practice conscious lifestyles, compared to a more developed countries such as Singapore. This situation linked to the key drivers, where developing countries are more impacted by the environmental issues.

Also, the spirit of togetherness are stronger in developing countries, which results in higher conscious state of mind. 

LBB> The environment, specifically, seems to be such a big part of this trend - how are attitudes and understanding about the environment changing in the region?

Devi> The environment is the most tangible part that is impacted from non-conscious living. Also, when you compare it to social issues, there are easier, simpler things that people can do to help improve the environment. Just by replacing plastic straws with bamboo straws, it already make people feel rewarded and makes them feel a part of bigger cause. Hence the environment is the most common area that people pay more attention to.  

LBB> How does social media influence the conscious lifestyle? Is it a fairly shallow performance for social media - or does it go deeper?

Devi> Social media plays a very big role in shaping the conscious lifestyle mindset. A lot of people get their information about the movements from social media, and, also, doing good has become a key attractor of likes in social media post. This also shaped how conscious lifestyles in ASEAN countries behave differently than the conventional concept. ASEAN’s are more motivated to do conscious lifestyle that are Instagram worthy, hence the #InstaGood actions. 

LBB> I know this is a big generalisation, but many Asian cultures are known for a collective rather than individualist cultures and I was wondering therefore how this 'conscious lifestyle' is influenced by that and how you think it might differ from sustainable lifestyles in other parts of the world?

Devi> Having a strong spirit of togetherness makes people have more empathy as well as making it easier for people to join a cause. This situation has really influenced the fast adoption of conscious lifestyles in ASEAN. Also it has influenced how different the key motivations of ASEAN consciouslites are when compared with the more developed society. Where the conventional concept of conscious lifestyle are driven by saving the planet, the ASEAN consciouslites are driven by “us”, community and their surroundings. 

LBB> Are there any good examples of brands tapping into this conscious lifestyle in ASEAN that you can share?

Devi> This rise of conscious lifestyle has also given birth to so many local produce brands. ASEAN consciouslites feel more connected with small brands that they believe have lower carbon footprints and are more genuine in their beliefs and values of creating the better world for their community. Actually, this is homework for big manufacturers – they need to take serious actions and really consider the purpose of their brand and communication.

LBB> And how do you think this conscious lifestyle will evolve?

Devis Conscious Lifestyle, especially ASEAN Consciouslites will become a new way of living, so this is bigger than just a trend, but a sustainable way of life. The question is, are brands aware of that and will they start to take actions?

The Consciouslites

Sei-katsu-sha who live Conscious Lifestyles, seeking to have a positive impact on environmental and social issues through their everyday actions and brand choices

Questions answered by Devi Attamimi, Institute Director of Hakuhodo Institute of Life and Living ASEAN.
(for more info on her) Please visit HILL ASEAN website for more info.
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