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Sustainable Businesses Need to Focus on Latinos

Jan Lee headshotWords by Jan Lee
Leadership & Transparency

The Latino population is the fastest growing demographic in the United States. According to the Pew Hispanic Center, approximately 800,000 Hispanic residents turn 18 every year. Those numbers speak volumes to political analysts, who believe that a politically engaged Latino voting bloc could have a significant impact on the country’s future political landscape when it comes to immigrants’ rights, the economy and other pivotal issues. But according to the advertising and marketing firm Saatchi and Saatchi, the numbers also reflect an untapped resource for another sector: the green industry and corporate sustainable responsibility (CSR) marketing.

Latino Demographics: the 'Sleeping Giant'

According to a report published by the sustainability marketing firm, Hispanic American consumers represent a sleeping giant when it comes to consumer clout. Cultural factors, heritage and increasing economic upward mobility are all elements that have been largely overlooked by many CSR proponents.

“More than growing in sheer size, Latinos’ purchasing power is also on the rise. In 2012, Latino consumer purchasing power is estimated at $1.1 trillion,  9.5 percent of the U.S. total. By 2015 it is expected to grow to $1.6 trillion -- a 48 percent increase, compared with about 27 percent for the entire nation.”

How has the green industry failed to connect with Latino consumers?

Saatchi and Saatchi Senior Analyst Nayelli Gonzalez points out that there are some key steps that are being missed by advertisers:

Cultural relevancy speaks loud and clear to consumers. So does tying into and being familiar with Latino cultural traditions.

“For many Latino families, sustainable habits are quite the norm …Walk into most Latino homes and you’ll find signs of deep cultural connections to nature,” says Gonzalez. Meals made with home-cooked ingredients and a leaning toward conservation are hallmarks of an appreciation for sustainable living.

Knowing what are key concerns for the country’s largest growing sector, like health and wellness, the environment and respect for culture is essential.

So is the vernacular that’s used. Almost half of those surveyed for this report speak English comfortably, so the issue isn’t about simply writing the ads in Spanish, or knowing which dialect to use. It’s about knowing the value system of the target audience.

“Speak a language, both literally and figuratively, that resonates with Latinos,” says Gonzalez.

There have been some larger corporations that have begun to focus on this economic sector and have been rewriting assumptions about Latino consumers. Pepsi, which has had a long history in Latin America and Proctor and Gamble are two mega-corporations that have tailored bilingual CSR campaigns. CocaCola, which has been marketing in Latin America at least as long as Pepsi, and Starbucks are still searching for the door says Gonzalez.

And then there’s Latino sustainable businesses

Perhaps there is no better proof of Saatchi and Saatchi’s observations than the growing number of Latino-run sustainable and eco-friendly businesses that exist both in the U.S. and outside its borders. Although Gonzalez doesn’t mention these companies, they paint an interesting picture of Latino eco-conscious businesses.

Re-char, owned by cleantech entrepreneur Jason Aramburu, produces carbon-negative growing media called Black Revolution. A graduate of Princeton in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, he has been tapped as one of Business Week’s top 25 social entrepreneurs in America.

Si Se Puede (Yes We Can Do It), a women’s cooperative with an eye toward eco-consciousness is made up of Latina women in Brooklyn. The cooperative has been successful in providing jobs for women and mobilizing a focus on green-cleaning products and procedures.

The Latino Economic Development Center in Minnesota teaches businesses it supports about green business practices that help to conserve resources and save money. One the businesses that has benefited from the Green Initiative program and now employs eco-smart techniques is the Taquería Los Ocampo, owned by Armando and Lilia Ocampo in Minneapolis.

And as businesses like the Guatemalan enterprise Byoearth has demonstrated over the past years with its eco-friendly fertilizer, environmentalism is a growing force in Hispanic countries just as it is here. A private Facebook group out of Spain acts as a connecting point for specialists and advocates in eco-conscious electrical and solar lighting methods, noting that “public lighting systems consume some three million megawatts annually in Spain.” Engineers, business owners and environmental advocates from throughout Latin America, North America and the Iberian Peninsula keep abreast with the latest in sustainable industries throughout the world.

Sustainability, or sustentabilidad has value in Latino communities, just as it does in other neighborhoods, and will continue to be a growing force in encouraging CSR and shaping business practices in U.S.

Image courtesy of Lucy Nieto.

Jan Lee headshotJan Lee

Jan Lee is a former news editor and award-winning editorial writer whose non-fiction and fiction have been published in the U.S., Canada, Mexico, the U.K. and Australia. Her articles and posts can be found on TriplePundit, JustMeans, and her blog, The Multicultural Jew, as well as other publications. She currently splits her residence between the city of Vancouver, British Columbia and the rural farmlands of Idaho.

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