Macro/Micro: Green translations

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Terena Bell
Multilingual April/May 2012
Columns and Commentary

My cousin Suzy says her family recycles because her nine-year-old son shamed her into it. He watched the movie WALL-E at a friend’s house, and now he’s paranoid that we’re destroying the planet. He’s not the only one. While I personally think we’re quite a ways from the trash-covered earth portrayed in the film, it doesn’t take a genius to realize that events such as the British Petroleum (BP) Deepwater Horizon oil spill are destructive. While many blame BP itself for the destruction, I’m of the opinion that BP, albeit recklessly, was only working to meet market needs. If Americans weren’t driving gas guzzlers, Americans wouldn’t need so much gas. I won’t go for a second round of this blame game, but I’m probably not the only person who believes that spill was a hell of our culture’s own making.
In fact, I know I’m not the only person who feels that way. Many of my clients do as well. Most likely, so do many of your clients, if you work for a language service provider (LSP). And if you’re on the buyer side, you still may have noticed changes at your own employer geared toward creating a more environmentally sound workplace. . .

My cousin Suzy says her family recycles because her nine-year-old son shamed her into it. He watched the movie WALL-E at a friend’s house, and now he’s paranoid that we’re destroying the planet. He’s not the only one. While I personally think we’re quite a ways from the trash-covered earth portrayed in the film, it doesn’t take a genius to realize that events such as the British Petroleum (BP) Deepwater Horizon oil spill are destructive. While many blame BP itself for the destruction, I’m of the opinion that BP, albeit recklessly, was only working to meet market needs. If Americans weren’t driving gas guzzlers, Americans wouldn’t need so much gas. I won’t go for a second round of this blame game, but I’m probably not the only person who believes that spill was a hell of our culture’s own making.
In fact, I know I’m not the only person who feels that way. Many of my clients do as well. Most likely, so do many of your clients, if you work for a language service provider (LSP). And if you’re on the buyer side, you still may have noticed changes at your own employer geared toward creating a more environmentally sound workplace. It’s about more than turning off the lights when you leave for the day or drinking coffee out of a real mug instead of a Styrofoam cup. Big business is becoming more and more cognizant of its role in preserving our environment. Some say it’s from an honest awareness of the corporate carbon footprint. But my cousin Suzy isn’t the only one changing her enviro-think due to someone else. According to a 2010 study from Cohn & Wolfe, a global communications agency specializing in the environmental sector, the largest segment of US shoppers willing to pay more for products labeled as environmentally safe are single men in their twenties and thirties looking to impress the ladies. In the United States, peer pressure is the principle reason why people buy environmentally safe products. By and large, consumers of what most people call “green” products tend to have surplus cash, and they’re not afraid to spend it if it makes them look trendy or “up-on-it” to other people. For Americans without surplus cash, though, “green” is just a tie-breaker. All other things — such as product availability and price — have to be equal before the average American will purchase the “green” product over the less sustainable one.
On a global front, though, this is a different scenario. Americans still care more about “getting a good value” than they do the environment. In Cohn & Wolfe’s 2010, pre-oil-spill survey, 100% of US respondents noted that “good value” was a driving force in how they made purchasing decisions. But in countries where environmental changes have already begun to have an impact outside the movies, environmental factors are number one. Take India, for example. . .


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