Pandering & Greenwashing: Eco Styler Gels

Pandering & Greenwashing: Eco Styler Gels

Eco Styler Gel is NOT eco-friendly. That’s it. That’s the post.

Okay, that’s not quite the whole post, but that’s the TL;DR. Read on for a more nuanced take on the question “Is Eco Styler Gel greenwashing?”

Contents:

Greenwashing and pandering: Eco styler gel pinterest graphic

What is greenwashing?

First, let’s get establish a common understanding of greenwashing. Here are some definitions from around the web that I like: 

  • “When companies invest more time and money on marketing their products or brand as “green” rather than actually doing the hard work to ensure that it is sustainable — this is called greenwashing.” – Leyla Acaroglu via Medium
  • “Greenwashing is an attempt to capitalize on the growing demand for environmentally sound products. Greenwashing can convey a false impression that a company or its products are environmentally sound.” – Will Kenton for Investopedia
Graphic of leaves with the following definition: Greenwashing is an attempt to capitalize on the growing demand for environmentally sound products. Greenwashing can convey a false impression that a company or its products are environmentally sound. Quote from Will Kenton for Investopedia.

One example of greenwashing is the Not Your Mothers “Naturals” line. This product line claims to be formulated with “98% naturally-derived ingredients,” meaning they are “unchanged from their natural state or maintain a majority of their molecular structure.” It’s not clear whether these natural ingredients are supposed to be better for the environment or for your hair, but let’s say it’s the former for the sake of this argument. Even though this line is made with “natural ingredients” it’s environmental impact is larger than the ingredients. It’s footprint includes the farms or mines the ingredients are taken from, the energy and resources used to process the ingredients, the packaging, and the transportation between all these steps. None of these areas are addressed, so this line of products should not be considered eco-friendly.

Greenwashing might also look like…

  • Using the words “non-toxic” or “biodegradable” on your packaging even though these have little regulation.
  • Incorporating green/brown colors or trees/leaves/water images to evoke a sense of being in touch with nature.
  • Adding the words “Green” or “Eco” to your product name. 👀👀👀

Is Eco Styler Gel greenwashing?

Eco Styler gels are made by the company Ecoco (a shortening of Ecology Company), whose mission is to “unite beauty with environmental consciousness [and] push the envelope in green technology.” If you’ve ever seen Eco Styler gel on the shelf at a store, this mission might seem surprising to you since their packaging does not mention anything at all about environmental consciousness

Photo from Ecoco's Instagram page (@ecocobeauty) showing 13 stacked colorful tubs of Eco Styler gel.

In fact, their packaging is pretty minimal. Usually just a clear plastic tub with the product name, ingredients, and use information. Some of their products have small “not tested on animals” and “recyclable” logos. That’s it. Their social media profiles do mention “eco friendly products” in their bio/about pages, but they’re not really pushing this message in their posts. 

One news article I found says that Ecoco describes itself as using “globally sourced ingredients [that] are nearly all naturally derived, delivering great personal style without the carbon footprint.” This is the only time I’ve seen this carbon footprint claim, and I can’t find any other details about what this means, so again I don’t think there’s anything to this.

Because of all this, it’s hard for me to say that Ecoco is “greenwashing” when they do so little marketing at all. In my opinion, Ecoco gets a pass on greenwashing because it’s so easy to see that their few claims about environmentalism are unsubstantiated.

Is Eco Styler Gel pandering to the Black community?

Yes, I think so. I know, using a dictionary definition is kind of taboo, but one of Merriam-Websters definition of “pander” includes exploiting the weaknesses of others. I believe that Ecoco uses Black people on their social media in a way that creates a false sense of their support for the Black community. I don’t think it’s a weakness that POC look up to and want to support other POC, but Ecoco does seem to be exploiting this characteristic.

Their Instagram and Facebook pages are full of people of color, particularly Black-presenting people. Of course, all these people probably consented to being on their page. To the best of my amateur-sleuthing ability, I’d say these are mostly hired models. As a result, these models become the “face” of the company. But who actually started this company? Is it Black-owned?

Screenshot of ecocobeauty's instagram feed, which features brightly colored photos of Black models, some holding eco styler gel. Their bio reads "Stands for Ecology Company = Ecoco. Making eco friendly products in the USA. Tag us or use #ecocobeauty for a chnace to be featured on our page. ecocoinc.com"

It was considerably difficult to track down the name and photos of the person running the company and that’s a huge red flag in-and-of itself. Most people who have started a successful environmentally-conscious business would be happy to put their name and face on it, right? Instead, Ecoco’s website, social media profiles, and LinkedIn page hardly mention the company leader, which seems weird for such as successful company. 

Photo of Aaron Tiram next to a sign that says "Jinny Beauty Supply Welcom Aboard Key Vendor Partners & Jinny Staff." Tiram is wearing a light pink polo French-tucked into sky blue shorts with a fedora.
Photo from OTC Beauty Magazine. https://otcbeautymagazine.com/jinny-corp-1st-annual-sales-meeting/

After some digging, I was able to find the company leader (I’m not even sure of his exact title): Aaron Tiram. You can see his photo to the side, and I think it’s clear that he is not Black and thus Ecoco is not a Black-owned business. 

Now you might say that Ecoco is not exploiting Black customers because the Eco Styler gel does work well. They’re buying a gel, and the product performs as advertised. While this is true, to me, the advertising and facelessness of the company is very off-putting. The fact that they’re selling to Black/curly-haired people, coupled with lack of any evidence of giving back to the community (One #BlackLivesMatter post and a black square does not count), makes me believe that they’re doing something akin to pandering.

Conclusion

Ecoco is a weird and maybe even sketchy company. I don’t think they’re greenwashing because they’re not pushing a green message, but they’re certainly not an eco-friendly company. I do think that they’re pandering to the Black community because they sell specifically to Black people but don’t back this up with meaningful support of the Black community.

If you’re looking for a gel that’s actually eco-friendly, I highly recommend Alaffia’s Curl Defining Gel, made with fair trade, non-GMO ingredients from a company with a proud Black founder that actually has receipts for supporting Western African communities 🙂

Let me know what you think!

How do you feel about Ecoco’s marketing techniques? Do you think they’re greenwashing? Drop me a comment or hmu on Instagram!

Leave a Reply