White Barn is known for their amazing variety of scents and usage of essential oils in all of their candles. One thing they are not known for is their sustainability commitments, or lack thereof. With no data, statistics, or information on White Barn’s manufacturing process, it is hard to say whether or not they are taking steps forward to becoming a more sustainable company.
All White Barn candles, no matter the scent, start with a soybean oil and palm oil base, then are fragranced with essential oils and colored with a dye that matches the candle’s theme. Wax made of soybean oil and palm oil isn’t necessarily unsustainable, but there are environmental hazards associated with the two types of oils’ production. Soybean oil production, on a small scale, is not anymore harmful for the environment than any other legume harvest. However, soy production in the U.S continues to increase by billions of bushels compared to previous years; the U.S is 2nd in soy production, right behind Brazil, and outranks 3rd place by over 3x the amount of production. As soy products gain populatirty, their strain on the environment increases. When produced at these colossal rates environmental degradation can include wide-scale deforestation, biodiversity loss, rising carbon emissions, soil erosion, and water contamination, just to name a few. As for palm oil, the environmental degradation associated includes burning of forests to make room for fields of palm, resulting in air pollution and removal of natural carbon sinks from ecosystems.
We cannot knock White Barn for using soy and palm oil in their candles, as that is just the nature of the product. In comparison to other candles, wax made of soy and palm oil is the sustainable option. Other candle companies sometimes use paraffin wax, which is derived from petroleum oil and has a “dirty burn” which means as your candle burns it is releasing small amounts of toxins into your house, contributing to indoor air pollution. The only advice I would have for White Barn is not that they need to rethink their ingredients or change their products in any way, but consider offsetting emissions caused by production or to look into small farms that harvest soybean and palm oil rather than contributing to Big Ag. Since Bath & Body Works, the parent company of White Barn, is one of the leading fragrance companies in America, it can be hard to not run their production lines on such a massive scale, but there is still definitely room for improvement that does not lead to slowing down or cutting back on production.
During my research on White Barn I could not find information on their suppliers, manufacturing process, or production emissions- which throws up a huge red flag. I would’ve have liked to see information on how White Barn is contributing to the agriculture industry through the massive amounts of soy and palm oil they purchase. Having such little information on the beginning and middle of this candle’s life cycle makes me assume that White Barn is not taking any positive sustainability actions that they would want noted. As for the end of the candle’s life cycle, it pretty much ends with customer purchase. Following the candle’s full burn White Barn does not offer any sort of re-fill program, meaning if you would like another candle you would need to buy an entirely new one. The candle’s glass jar can be recycled or repurposed according to the consumer’s needs, but White Barn does not play any role in the disposal of their packaging.
White Barn, which is an extension of Bath & Body Works, is under the umbrella of LBrands, a company that also owns other popular brands such as Victoria’s Secret and Pink. LBrands did not provide much information to work with in terms of their sustainability reports. Their website included flashy headlines and attention grabbers like “commitment to conserve energy and preserve natural resources at every step of production” yet they didn't say how they were doing this and didn't list any statistics or data to support this. With no numbers to base these claims on, it's hard to say whether they are actually taking the right steps to be a more sustainable company.
As a broader company, LBrand does have some recognitions to boast about. They’ve partnered with the U.S EPA SmartWay and WasteWise, which help companies advanced supply chain sustainability by measuring, benchmarking, and improving transportation efficenity and waste production. In 2018, LBrands earned the WasteWise National Award for best overall improvement in waste prevention and diversion. This shows that while their brands, like White Barn, may not be up there in terms of sustainability right now, they are trying and taking steps to get there. There was no mention of awards since 2018, so hopefully their improvements have continued and they get to a greater level of sustainability sooner rather than later. As for Bath & Body Works and White Barn, all of their offices and distribution centers are LEED Silver EB certified, but the same cannot be said for their brick and mortar stores. I’m assuming this is because many of their stores are located in shopping malls rather than standing on their own, so they do not have much say in the actual building, but this could be an area of improvement for the company to look into.
White Barn and Bath & Body Works have faced significant negative remarks regarding their brand within the past decade. Previously, Bath & Body Works was marketed as cruelty-free, however that was later proven to be untrue. On the Bath & Body Works website, they state that they are now cruelty free, changed their policy regarding animal testing as recently as 2014 (estimated year), and only manufacture within North America, Europe, and South Korea. However, articles as recent as 2020 have come out that they still test on animals and manufacture in China, which requires their products be tested on animals before human use. Through my research I did not find any information on if Bath & Body Works refuted this statement, besides their one sentence statement in their FAQ section that I mentioned above.
Another huge media buzz the company overcame was also in 2014 when the company needed to phase out the use of ingredients, such as Triclosan, from their products because of the harmful nature of the ingredient. Some of the ingredients they previously used and consequently phased out were later banned by the FDA in 2016. Since these instances of negative media attention around 2012-2016, Bath & Body Works and White Barn have for the most part remained out of the media and continued to grow their profits.