The future of green isn’t white

The future of green isn’t white

For years, a lot of market research hinged on simple demographics: age, income, education, gender, geography, marital status, etc. And for quite some time, we’ve been telling people that sustainability isn’t a simple demographic phenomenon – it’s a psychographic one. It’s more driven by values and attitudes, behaviors and motivations. But here’s one area where the two clearly come together – the pervasiveness of sustainable attitudes and actions by Hispanics.

We first started calling this out in last year’s Eco Pulse. Even though Hispanics, on average, have less education and lower incomes than the segments we’ve historically identified as the greenest, they’re significantly more likely to be searching for greener products (75%) than Caucasians (61%) and African Americans (57%).

In past years, we’ve seen that Hispanics are a mixed bag in terms of green attitudes and behaviors. For instance, in 2009’s Green Living Pulse, they scored the second lowest among all racial/ethnic groups in green activities. But the 2010 Eco Pulse shows them as a clearly emerging group with the second highest average number of green activities. This year’s Energy Pulse (not yet released) shows that Hispanics are less likely than Caucasians to think they’re using more energy, and are more likely to choose “having an energy efficient home is one way to help improve the environment.” In addition, they were more likely to choose “Protecting the environment and saving natural resources” as their reason to conserve energy, and ranked energy conservation as very important more often than their white counterparts. They scored near average for energy-efficient purchases and renovations completed and above average for conservation habits.

Interestingly, Hispanics are also the ethnic group most likely to be talking about green issues with their children, friends and neighbors and making changes as a result of those conversations. They report feeling very personally responsible to change their behavior to conserve resources, significantly more so than other ethnic groups. They are the only ethnic group that selected the environment as being more important than their comfort and convenience.

And they seem to be acting on their convictions in the marketplace. Hispanics are more likely than Caucasians and African-Americans to say that a company’s environmental practices impact their purchase decisions, and significantly more likely to boycott a product and encourage their friends to do the same.

In deciding if a product is green, they think recycled content is very important, but also show a lot of enthusiasm about products that are made with renewable energy. They are particularly interested in green baby products and furniture.

International studies show Hispanics are leading the world in green purchases. However, U.S.-based Hispanics, although making great strides, are still lagging behind the international Hispanic population’s green attitudes, behaviors and purchases. According to TNS Global, respondents in Latin American countries surveyed in their 2008 Global Green Living study were greener than U.S.-based Hispanics. Among the 17 countries represented, three Latin American countries (Mexico, Brazil and Argentina) scored overwhelmingly higher in their concern for the environment compared to the rest of the world and to the United States. More than 60% of Latin Americans polled said they have changed their behavior significantly to benefit the environment, compared with only 36% of U.S. Hispanics.

Marketers would be wise to capitalize on this shift in behaviors and attitudes and build on existing momentum by featuring Hispanics in communications materials and perhaps even creating Spanish-language versions of their advertising. We’ve found in our research that this is also a group primed for word-of-mouth campaigns—they’re already talking with their children and their friends about green issues. Give them something to talk about and they can become agents for change or advocates for your products. And for marketers already targeting Hispanics, it would be wise to evaluate product packaging and manufacturing practices to include recyclable materials and renewable energy.

So why does all this matter?  Because Hispanics make up 16% of the population today and in 39 years they’re projected to account for 29%.  So, in essence, they are becoming the mass market…which means the mass market will be green, and they’ll expect manufacturers to bake environmental friendliness and social responsibility into every product they make.  So if you’re not doing that today, start.  It’s the only way to succeed in the future.

About the Author

Karen Barnes

Karen is a former contributor to Shelton Insights.

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