Brands: Burt’s Bees

The story of Burt’s Bees is a remarkable one, from humble beginnings in the backwoods of Maine where apiarists Burt Shavitz and Roxanne Quimby slept in an 8′x8′ turkey coop…to today’s success as one of the leaders in natural personal care products. The company has helped shape a movement, along with the likes of Seventh Generation, Tom’s of Maine, and Ben & Jerry’s (interestingly, all born in New England), that saw social responsibility as central to brand identity.

That brand identity was pummeled by skeptics after Burt’s Bees was purchased by Clorox in 2007 for $913 million. But just as Ben & Jerry’s has tried to stay true to its roots after being purchased by Unilever, Burt’s Bees is, by all accounts, still driven by its founding mission: “to create natural, Earth-friendly personal care products formulated to help you maximize your well-being and that of the world around you.” Only now, thanks to deep pockets and Clorox’s distribution machine, it might push the industry towards ‘all natural’ even faster.

Among its recent innovations is a line of six natural toothpastes, all formulated with real Cranberry Extract, known to block bacteria from adhering to teeth and gums, helping prevent plaque formation. The Natural Multicare Toothpaste With Fluoride contains no sodium lauryl sulfate and no artificial colors, flavors, sweeteners or preservatives. Never tested on animals, the products are also free of petrochemicals and synthetic ingredients such as Phthalates. According to the company, the percentage of natural ingredients in the toothpaste is 99.2%.

The Cloroxes and Unilevers of the world, “faceless multinational, bestriding the globe, selling detergents and cleaning products” may, in fact, be using companies like Burt’s Bees and Ben & Jerry’s as “socially responsible fig leafs.” But that assessment tells only a fraction of the story. As Burt’s Bees CEO, John Replogle, told the NY Times not long after Clorox purchased them, “Don’t judge Clorox as much by where they’ve been as much as where they intend to go.” As Replogle explained then, ”Burt’s Bees’ 380 employees have an opportunity to influence the direction of Clorox, a company that generated $4.8 billion in sales last year and employs 7,800 people.”

To wit, the 2010 ImagePower Green Brands Survey named Burt’s Bees “the #1 Green Brand,” and the company’s green initiatives include an impressive list of achievements. In April, Burt’s Bees accomplished its goal of producing zero waste to landfill, years ahead of schedule. In the last year, the company reduced its energy consumption by 15.3% and saw a 5.5% decrease in non-product water use.

Mr. Replogle and co. hope to reinvent business with an idea they call “the Greater Good,” based on the premise that if companies are socially responsible, profit will follow. Employee bonuses are tied to performance metrics that include meeting sustainability goals.

See some of our other “bee-related’ posts:

German Airport To Use Bees To Monitor Air Quality

UK Supermarket to keep bees


  • Tags: Brands, Green Initiatives, Simple Change, Waste
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