How Latin Americans See Sustainability

Trends / Sustainability
Federico Roales
Aug 18, 2023
In the past, financial and social crises had diverted attention away from environmental concerns. However, the Covid‑19 pandemic was different because it highlighted the ways in which our lifestyle had been impacting the planet, with direct contributing factors such as population growth, environmental degradation, and increased land demand1. Simultaneously, there has been a growing emphasis on ecosystem conservation in the discourse of Latin American brands, particularly in relation to consumption2, tourism3, and consequentially, industrial production4. This shift has led to a more proactive focus on environmental sustainability. What was merely a statement flagged by NGOs a decade ago has now transformed into a valuable commercial asset.

However, our latest VisualGPS analysis indicates that Latin Americans are increasingly concerned about reaching a tipping point: two‑thirds believe that the planet will become uninhabitable in the future as a result of climate change and global warming. Furthermore, they perceive that insufficient action is being taken to reverse the situation. Being well aware of greenwashing practices, they won’t be easily convinced: 81% of respondents believe that companies use labels such as "environmentally‑friendly" or "eco‑friendly" as mere marketing tactics.

Living sustainably encompasses various aspects of people's daily lives, but it is primarily driven by the principles of simplicity and convenience. This is largely due to the financial context faced by Latin American consumers, which according to VisualGPS is their number one concern. As a result, they may not have sufficient financial means or time to invest in sustainable actions that are not directly linked to cost‑saving measures, such as purchasing second‑hand items, or actions that may not look straightforward and uncomplicated, such as waste separation, or recycling.
Interest in environmental sustainability is not reflected in popular visuals
Our consumer survey emphasizes that 9 out of 10 Latin Americans expect to see sustainability commitments in all brand communications, and businesses are actively attempting to engage in the public discourse surrounding sustainability. In fact, search terms such as "recycling" (+48%), "solar panels" (+36%), or "circular economy" (+21%) have experienced significant growth in Latin America during 2022. However, this increased interest is not reflected in the most popular downloads. Only 3% of the most popular images on Getty Images depict sustainable practices. Moreover, when sustainable practices are portrayed, they often appear dehumanized and abstract, failing to connect with the values of today's consumers.

Furthermore, according to VisualGPS, Latin Americans are committed to taking individual actions to care for the environment, such as recycling (65%), making their homes more energy‑efficient (53%), buying second hand (51%) or adopting a diet with less meat and more plant‑based food (39%). However, these actions are rarely depicted among the most popular visuals.
What does sustainability mean to Latin Americans?
According to VisualGPS, consumers' primary desire regarding brand communications is for a tangible and transparent commitment to the environment. Among the top ways in which companies can demonstrate their sustainable actions, consumers prioritize sustainable packaging, utilization of alternative energy sources, and promotion of fair manufacturing practices. Additionally, 86% of Latin Americans consider it important for companies to publicly showcase their values on social issues, and they expect this to be reflected in their visual narratives.

In this regard, it is crucial to showcase how individual and corporate sustainable practices can positively impact people's daily lives, moving beyond abstract and symbolic representations of a greener world. To provide concrete evidence, emphasize the practical measures we have at our disposal to make a tangible impact on the planet. Furthermore, demonstrate how your company can contribute through authentic and genuine stories. Last but not least,
include individuals of different ethnicities, skin tones, body types, gender identities and expressions, and people with disabilities to demonstrate that sustainability can be practiced by everyone.
1(Medical News Today)
2(La Tercera ‑ Chile)
3(La Nación ‑ Argentina)
4(Portal Movilidad ‑ Mexico)
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