Man vs. Naturaleza: How “green” are Hispanics?

09 Oct 2007|Miguel Winebrenner

Last year at a conference I heard the VP of Innovation and Design at J&J say that “green is the new black.” While I doubt he meant that fashionable people will replace their go-to black clothes with green ones, I do agree that “green” (in the environmental sense) has become cool and is impacting business. Ford has already come out with hybrids for some of their cars like the Escape (Porsche is planning the same); consumer packaged goods are taunting their contributions to the environment; airlines are jumping on the wagon; and importantly, the population is being segmented and analyzed differently because the degree of greenness a consumer has can speak volumes about their perception of brands, what products give them status, and the types of communications that are persuasive to them.

But you probably already knew this. My question is: are there Hispanic market characteristics that suggest Hispanics have a different relationship with the environment than do the mainstream population? I believe there are differences, and that those differences impact the way Hispanics respond to green marketing messaging.

Of all the differences, the most powerful is that being green to Hispanics is less of a lifestyle statement and more about a pragmatic application to real life. This is especially- and almost exclusively- true of immigrants who lived in countries where the socio-economic conditions have affected environmental behaviors. There are several examples of how the relationship with the environment is positive:

– Electric bills, for example, are extremely expensive in Latin America so there is a tendency to leave lights off longer, not leave the radio or TV on too long, and go lights-off earlier at night
– Many immigrants did not have home appliances in their home country so there is a built-in behavior to wash clothes and dishes by hand
– Water heaters are non-present in homes or they are many times electric, so water usage is more tightly monitored in the household than in the U.S.
– And just overall, the importance of economic austerity for day to day survival have made Hispanic Dominants in the U.S. more frugal and less wasteful

Conversely, there are negative examples:

– Given the low education levels and minimal government awareness programs, waste management practices are not as good i.e., there is less recycling
– Also given lower levels of education, there is less social responsibility which many times leads to misuse and abuse of natural resources

At the end of the day, it is possible that Hispanics are more “green” than the mainstream because they have not yet reached the level of prosperity that leads to abundance of materials and the luxury of waste. But importantly, the reasons that they are green are less related to outward appearances, personality statements and lifestyle than they are to behaviors resulting from poverty. That is, they would not drive a hybrid because it says that they are sophisticated, compassionate, smart etc. (which is what hybrid cars seem to have embodied for many in the general market). Rather, they would buy it if it were cheaper than a gas-run car.

That said, it’s questionable whether the “green” movement will have an effect on being able to entice less acculturated Hispanic consumers. So, should companies be making Spanish language media that plays up green, or should it focus on other benefits? I’d say that most Spanish-language media consumers (the less acculturated) are not yet at the point where green is the new black.

prev next