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Designing a More Sustainable & Green Business by Looking at Immigrant Culture

CCA LiveE | Tuesday December 25th, 2012 | 4 Comments

This is part of a series of articles by MBA students at California College of the Arts dMBA program. Follow along here.

immigrationBy: Jennifer YB Jones

As demonstrated by the recent election, immigrants are the key to the future of the U.S. economy and power. “According to CNN, 71% of the Latino vote (10% of the electorate), the highest seen since President Clinton in 1996 and 73% of the Asian vote (3% of the electorate) voted for President Obama hoping for a continued promise to create an immigration process that recognizes the contribution of aspiring citizens.” Instead of fearing what immigrants might do to this country, we need to begin to understand, embrace and emulate their core values as a means to reevaluate and create more sustainable business practices.

There has been a lot of heated discussion around the topic of immigration and in particular their impact on American resources. The argument is normally centered around the growing immigrant population and how this will add to environmental problems. However, looking at a 2010 study, we can clearly see that this is not true. Why is it that cities with the highest carbon footprint have an immigration population of 5% while cities with the lowest have 25%?

How is this possible? If the argument is that immigrants use too many resources, how can the carbon emissions be less in high-immigrant cities? “The estimated CO2 emissions of the average immigrant (legal or illegal) in the United States are 18 percent less than those of the average native-born American.”

I believe the answer is in the immigrant lifestyle.

The lifestyle of the average immigrant is more green and sustainable than that of the native-born American. This is due to the average immigrant income, access to resources, and cultural differences. Most Immigrant culture is centered around living within their economic means, using local resources, growing and consuming local produce, and using mass public transportation systems … So why not model business culture around immigrant culture to help create a more sustainable future?

Save money like an immigrant:

Due to the global economic crises, gone are the days of “champagne wishes and caviar dreams.” The Median household income after inflation fell to $50,054, a level that was 8 percent lower than in 2007, the year before the recession took hold. However, the average income of the immigrant is even lower than that of the native-born yet we are still seeing that “the 10 neighborhoods with the highest concentration of foreign-born residents had stronger economic growth than the rest of New York City between 2000 and 2007.” Immigrants tend to live within their means more than the native-born Americans who are still holding onto the caviar dreams. According Voices of New York, “Immigrants are willing to put up with a lower standard of living than debt-ridden Americans in order to reach their saving goals” by not owning credit cards and living off debt. Businesses should stop relying on loans and debt because it’s not sustainable.

Eat like an immigrant:

A growing trend in the U.S. is farm to table food. It’s amazing to think getting locally grown food is a new trend seeing that many immigrants in the U.S. have been growing their own and feeding their families with it for years. In a recent article in Entrepreneur, “The Columbia City customers are a disparate lot. Many are immigrants, going stall to stall to buy produce as they did at home. Others live in downtrodden neighborhoods nearby, one reason that this market has recently started accepting food stamps.”

If businesses started to provide food to employees from locally-sourced farms, not only would overall employee health improve but it could reduce the amount of emissions. Right now, “a basic diet of imported products can use four times the energy and produce four times the emissions of an equivalent domestic diet!

Commute like an immigrant:

According to a 2007 survey, a higher percentage of immigrants rode buses (5.7% vs. 2.1%) and subways (4.1% vs. 1.2%) and many walked to work (3.7% vs. 2.7%). A much smaller percentage drove to work (79.8% vs. 87.7%).

transpo

If businesses started implementing carpools or mandating the use of public transportation where available, we could potentially lower carbon emissions. “A single person, commuting alone by car, who switches a 20-mile round trip commute to existing public transportation, can reduce his or her annual CO2 emissions by 4,800 pounds per year, equal to a 10% reduction in all greenhouse gases produced by a typical two-adult, two-car household. By eliminating one car and taking public transportation instead of driving, a savings of up to 30% of carbon dioxide emissions can be realized.”

So, if businesses in America want to start being more sustainable and environmentally friendly, perhaps they should model their practices around the immigrant lifestyle.

[chart credit: 2007 American Community Survey Processed by A. Modarres, http://www.newgeography.com/content/00958-immigrants-are-‘greening’-our-cities-how-about-giving-them-a-break]

[Image credit: Flickr User Elvert Barnes ]


▼▼▼      4 Comments     ▼▼▼

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  • Dave Shires

    I like where you’re coming from here, but don’t you think simple economics has more to do with this than anything else? Most immigrants tend to be poorer, therefore they consume less. I’m not sure it’s any less simple than that.

  • Christian

    Are you saying that immigrants don’t have enough money to buy cars, more goods thus they rely on public transportation and have to recycle and reuse all their items – can’t afford to eat out because they can’t afford it?
    Just an observation…

    • Dave Shires

      Yes, generally speaking I believe that is the case. What I’m saying is that just because people are immigrants doesn’t make them automatically more enlightened.

  • downunder2013

    This subject was recently touched on in a
    current affair program in Australia.
    They interviewed a Professor from a USA University who highlighted points
    outlined in this article and went on to say that although a lot more research
    needed to be done, there was a strong correlation between immigrants living
    longer than those born in the USA.

    Whilst I don’t entirely believe
    sustainability and green business “lies” in immigrants, I do agree that immigrants
    have a stronger connection to family, work ethic and a lifestyle that should be
    looked at. In Australia boatloads of
    immigrants arrive legally/ and illegally wanting a better life. They become first generation Australians who
    are so determined to fight for a better life for that they could not fathom putting
    their parents in nursing homes, spending hundreds on a new larger plasma screen
    TVs, or eating McDonalds. They bring
    their roots and customs and then give so much to their new lands and their
    practices of a life focused on what actually really counts should be more looked
    at and adhered to more by those who have become complacent and accepting of the
    consumer ridden society many of us find ourselves in.

    Immigrants have and will continue to build
    up and develop countries like Australia and America, but we ALL need to be more
    sustainable and green. First, second,
    third…nineth generations need to get our priorities in place and think about
    sustainability and how we can all better each other.