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Burt’s Bees: Are they Greenwashing?

Burt’s Bees: Are they Greenwashing?

Burt’s Bees is a brand that has been around for what feels like forever. Yet they’ve only recently expanded to include makeup and baby care products. Now that the brand has grown so much it’s clear that people are skeptical. Is Burt’s Bees greenwashing?

Burt’s Bees is owned by a larger corporation

Burt’s Bees was purchased by the Clorox company in 2007. Under their umbrella they own a variety of smaller brands like Pine Sol, Brita and Glad. This may raise a red flag to many people. How can a large corporation that is well known for chemical production to sell natural alternatives?

Truth be told, this is happening everywhere. Indie brands are getting scooped up by these large corporations so that they can grow. Whether that in itself is greenwashing is a bit of a grey area.

On one hand we want the expansion of smaller companies that have sustainable and ethical initiatives. But when they’re part of a conglomerate corporation does that negate what they are trying to achieve?

Researching Burt’s Bees

The Burt’s Bees Canadian website is lacking information. So I turned to their U.S counterpart. It seems to be a much more helpful resource when it comes to finding out more about the brand.

Big claims for a small company

On their “About Us” page they have a plethora of information regarding their production processes, their commitment to sustainability and some third party certifications. Overall, the brand looks good.

“Burt’s Bees has not sent any waste to landfill since 2011, and we have committed to limit the amount of our waste that is sent for waste-to-energy processing. “

Burt’s Bees 2018 sustainability report

Carbon Neutral Certified

Burt’s Bees has been certified by CarbonNeutral. This means that their operations have been carefully planned out to avoid excess waste or emissions. When they create emissions they pay to offset their impact.

Check out my post on why Third Party Certifications Matter

Terracycle Partnership

Burt’s Bees has partnered with Terracycle to ensure that their products are closed loop. It is important to note that this is available only in the U.S. In Canada they have no such program in place.

Burt’s Bees participates in Responsible Sourcing

In 2012 they created their own second party certification: Community Sourced. The goal is to source their ingredients sustainably and ethically. By using third-party audits, supplier sustainability plans and a business partner code of conduct.

Where does Burt’s Bees excel?

Unlike a lot of other “natural” brands Burt’s Bees has transparency. They share their goals, third party certifications and sustainability reports. Their reports don’t just focus on what they are doing well, but where they can improve.

We have struggled to meet our water reduction targets after increasing water use per mass unit of production by 30% in fiscal year 2016, as detailed in our 2016 Goals Update… As a result, we do not anticipate that we will meet our goal of 10% reduction by 2020. To offset our annual water consumption, we fund watershed restoration projects through the Bonneville Environmental Foundation aimed at revitalizing and sustaining fresh water resources.

Burt’s Bees 2018 Sustainability Report

Where can Burt’s Bees Improve?

Terracycle Availability

The Terracycle program that Burt’s Bees offers residents of the U.S is admirable. Essentially, if something is not recyclable in your municipality you can receive a free shipping label to send it to Terracycle and become repurposed.

There’s a majority of Canadians who use their products. Unless someone in Canada pays for their own Terracycle box their products are likely ending up in the trash. Which negates what they are trying to do.

Waste-to-Energy

Whilst the claim that they have not sent any trash into landfills is exciting. There is a dark side to it. It means that they’re sending their trash to be incinerated. It’s hard to say whether that’s truly a better option. Although their sustainability report states that they are working to reduce that amount.

So, do I believe that Burt’s Bees is greenwashing?

For a widely available and cost-effective range of products that you can buy from Walmart, Shopper’s Drug Mart or even at the grocery store I think they are doing a fantastic job. There is room for improvements to be made. But they are open and honest in regards to where they stand sustainably. 

If you’re contemplating purchasing products from Burt’s Bees or a competitor I think it is safe to say that Burt’s Bees would be the better choice.

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