Pandering & Greenwashing: Maui Moisture

Pandering & Greenwashing: Maui Moisture

Welcome back to the third installment of Pandering and Greenwashing, where we look closely at a brand’s practices to determine if they’re only pretending to be sustainable and if they’re race-baiting the Black community. This week I’m looking at Maui Moisture. Their pretty colorful bottles are nearly irresistable to me, plus you’ve probably seen that long list of ‘NOs’ on the side of the bottle that make it look like a great product. Is it really? Let’s take a look!

If you’re new to this series, be sure to check out my other posts on SheaMoisture and Eco Styler Gel!

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Is Maui Moisture Greenwashing?

Greenwashing occurs when a company makes itself appear more green than they actually are. “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” (Investopedia). See my Eco Styler Gel post, for a more complete definition.

For a company to greenwash, they actually have to be claiming that they’re eco-friendly. Because of this, I don’t think Maui Moisture (MM) is greenwashing because they’re not really pushing themselves as an eco-friendly brand.

Why Not?

As a brand, MM markets their products as using vegan ingredients with aloe vera as the first ingredient. They mention that they use “100% aloe” and “pure coconut.” Finally, MM’s website heavily features images of aloe leaves, water, and beaches, plus the name “Maui” draws on tropical ideals of the island.

While vegan ingredients are good for the planet, I don’t think MM overly emphasizes this fact to the point of greenwashing. The claims about pure, whole ingredients act as an appeal to puritan values (which I generally think is B.S.) but I don’t think it’s greenwashing, because they don’t make an environmental claim about the ingredients. Finally, the imagery, while somewhat misleading, is not enough to be considered greenwashing IMO.

The only environmental statement available on MM’s website is this blurb in their FAQ:

“Is MAUI MOISTURE’s® packaging post-consumer recycled?

Sustainability is one of our top priorities. We’ve pledged to use more recycled materials in packaging, reduce reliance on single-use model, and ensure that by 2025, 100% of our plastic packaging be reusable, recyclable, or compostable.”

Photo of a pink Maui Moisture shampoo bottle next to cut pieces of aloe vera.

See the way they evade that question? Honestly I think it’s a little funny that they basically asked themselves a question and then refused to answer it. Between this and the bright colored plastic bottles, so I don’t think they’re fooling anyone into thinking that they’re an environmentally friendly company. They just aren’t.

Is Maui Moisture Pandering?

Maui Moisture certainly doesn’t advertise only to Black people and POC, as the other brands we’ve looked at. I didn’t realize this before looking into the brand more closely, but MM products are made specifically for curls – all types of curls. So in this respect, I don’t think they’re pandering to BIPOC (even though they do prominently feature a 2020 Essence Best In Black Beauty Award Winner emblem on their website.)

That said, the company is part of a big conglomerate that certainly isn’t doing anything to uplift the Black community. Maui Moisture is part of Vogue International, which is a beauty brand owned by Johnson & Johnson. Johnson & Johnson also owns Neutrogena, Aveeno, Rogaine, Listerine, Band-Aid, Tylenol, and a number of other companies. Even though Johnson & Johnson’s “credo” on their website notes the different groups they are responsible to, including customers, employees, the environment, and stockholders, if you’ve ever seen products from any of these brands, you probably already know who the most important is. 

Although I usually focus on pandering to the Black community, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the “Maui” name again, which is taken from the Hawaiian language. This name is probably not being used to bait Hawaiian consumers. Instead, I think it’s more like appropriation – taking a small piece of native Hawaiian culture, using it to appeal to mass markets, and giving nothing back to islanders. For contrast, Alaffia, named for a West African greeting, works intimately with women in Togo to uplift their communities, providing education, jobs, healthcare, and environmental protection. MM could do something similar for their namesake island, but they do not.

As I mentioned in last week’s post about the relationship between zero waste and environmental justice, by doing more to take care of the environment, we in turn protect communities of color. And by not taking big steps to limit our impact on the environment, companies actively harm communities of color in particular. More than individuals, companies have huge power to either help or harm vulnerable environments and communities.

Zero waste is crucial to environmental racism. We need imperfect zero and low waste solutions to limit the environmental damage done to communities of color.

Conclusion

After all we’ve learned, I think we can say that Maui Moisture is not greenwashing and not pandering to communities of color. They are also not an eco-friendly company and are arguably ripping of native Hawaiian culture. Although I’ve used their products in the past, I don’t think I ever will again and I don’t suggest them. 

Let me know what you think!

What do you think about Maui Moisture? Are they greenwashing? Are there any other companies I should dig into?

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