Burt's Bees

overall Rating:

2.8

planets

Henna Moussavi
11/11/2021
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Burt’s Bees is a cosmetics company founded in 1984 by Burt Shavitz and Roxanne Quimby after they left their respective occupations and cities for Maine in the pursuit of a life more rooted in nature. When they met, they both utilized Burt’s newfound knowledge of beekeeping and gradually made use of the surplus beeswax Burt had collected to create various recipes, including candles and lip balm. Roxanne stated their motto to be that “since we take from nature, we must respect and preserve it”, a line of thought which successfully aligns with the products they provide.

They exceed expectations in their production process, having been founded on a basis to protect the planet and sustain healthy practices. They are exceptionally considerate of the harvesting of their ingredients, the people they employ, as well as the philanthropic efforts they make to aid communities globally. The company truly invests the money they make into promoting sustainable practices internationally, thus holding them at a higher standard than many cosmetics companies today and earning them a 2.8 rating.

what it's made of:

2.5

On their site, Burt’s Bees claims that their products are made of “100% natural origin formulas”, resulting in all of their products being of 95% natural origin. Their formulas also are without “phthalates, parabens, petrolatum, sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) and other chemicals of concern”, which also abides by their claims to be an all-natural brand. They strive to be 100% carbon-free, as well, with their definition of natural being “any substance that is harvested from nature and then isolated and purified by a variety of environmentally responsible techniques such as filtration, fermentation, distillation, and expressing”.

They also committed to recyclable packaging through TerraCycle, which essentially aids in closing the loop as they use plastic-based designs. They have a 52% overall post-consumer recycled content in their plastics, and as stated on their website, they choose “high-integrity materials available in high post-consumer recycled material content like aluminum, steel, paper, glass, and plastics that are more readily recyclable,” including PETE; polypropylene, and HDPE. Furthermore, the mixed materials in their packaging are often limited so they can be as easily recycled after use. By choosing to, for example, make their towelettes from repurposed tees, or to not shrink wrap their lip balms and rather use longer labels to prevent tampering, they actively “limit [their] footprint and cut out unnecessary plastics”.

A significant point would also be their concern with responsible sourcing. As a company, Burt’s Bees is “committed to supporting the communities and environments where [they] source [their] ingredients”, and actively invest in their communities across the globe which supports their supply chain, for example by “support[ing] women’s and children’s empowerment, and promot[ing] health, safety, and biodiversity”. Alongside hiring an Associate Director of Responsible Sourcing in 2010 who helps indicate traceability and transparency, Burt’s Bees is a part of “several global responsible sourcing organizations, including Sedex, AIM-Progress, Global Shea Alliance, and the Natural Resources Stewardship Circle”. This means that the materials and ingredients they are using are responsibly sourced, and the origins and helpers in obtaining these are appropriately supported for long-term mutual aid.

Through these measures, the respect for nature present in the sourcing and use of their materials for their products evidently displays environmental consciousness. The only criticism would be their continued use of plastic, regardless of being recycled. They could integrate further use and experimentation of biodegradable materials. Despite this, their commitment to having completely landfill-free operations, as well as offsetting their annual water consumption “through watershed restoration projects”, are significant and large-scale efforts in order to have a more sustainable production process. As a result, Burt’s Bees products deserve a 2.5 for what they’re made of.

how it's made:

3

The production of Burt’s Bees products often begins with the harvesting of beeswax. They source their beeswax in Uyowa Tanzania, using a hybrid method of both old and modern techniques, and harvest a significant amount from the hives, which are naturally suspended from trees. The integration of these hives in nature allows the bees to be in a more comfortable and organic environment, ensuring the production of quality wax. Once the comb is boiled down and the beeswax is extracted, the wax is sent to the Burt’s Bees factory in North Carolina, where the wax is filtered until it’s pure. Here, in the factory, the wax is made into pellets that can be easily melted. It is further mixed with natural ingredients and batches of lip balms and other products are rapidly produced.

With mostly machines manufacturing the products in the mid and later stages of production, the concern with the treatment of large quantities of factory employees is somewhat diminished. During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, Burt’s Bees supplied care packages to their key workers, essential staff in the NHS, as well as $70,000 worth of products to up to 250 hospitals. Furthermore, they continued extensive support of the needs of the communities surrounding their headquarters, such as providing relief for food insecurity “while sustaining its traditional environmental recipients”.

From the information available to produce this review, it seems that Burt’s Bees continues maintaining their environmentally friendly stance throughout the production process. Workers are treated respectfully and supported, rather than let go of, during times of crisis, and factory conditions appear to be ideal. In addition, their support of the communities overseas which help source materials for their products also surpasses the standard for most companies. An extremely impressive element of their production process would be that “for the amount of carbon they are emitting through production, they invest in environmental projects to offset that amount”. This manifests in the form of landfill gas projects, such as NC Green Power, a project which promotes the integration of renewable energy in the place wherein their factory is located. Moreover, in partnership with Natural Capital Partners, Burt’s Bees also helps to distribute “fuel-efficient stoves to families in Uganda, where indoor air pollution through cooking is a big health concern”.

This deep consideration for “promoting sustainable farming, renewable energy, zero waste, and carbon neutrality” through environmental awareness and philanthropic initiatives sets a notable precedent for other companies in the cosmetics industry. It ensures they are responsible for either neutralizing their environmental impact or in many cases actually bettering the world through their practices, thus warranting a 3 for going above and beyond in how their products are made.

who makes it:

3

As aforementioned, Burt’s Bees was founded by two individuals who went into the company with the intent of staying sustainable, thus allowing them to grow at such a fast pace and remain eco-friendly all the while. Burt Shavitz and Roxanne Quimby ensured that their cosmetic products would be natural, and embedded this ideal into the foundations of Burt’s Bees. Thus, even beyond Burt’s passing, they were able to sustain this standard.

Whilst being extremely considerate of their staff both in the locations of their factories and beyond, they also facilitate projects in order to produce more jobs for people in need. As they invested in 10 Global Supplier Communities, Burt’s Bees is aided in resourcing “their raw material sustainably and responsibly while also partnering with non-profit and other organizations to help provide opportunities for people living in these communities”. Also, they produce additional jobs for local farmers, having established “over 10,000 bee foraging sites and funded over 6,000 acres of bee-friendly farmland”. These efforts ensure sustainable farming techniques in areas where they may have gone overlooked, promoting sustainable practices and supporting healthy pollination.

Among other projects and efforts, Burt’s Bees holds a high standard for their employees and consistently makes efforts to give back to the communities they utilize, earning them a 3 overall in who makes their products.