The Buzz Behind Burt’s Bees


Cross-posted at Greenopolis.com

Once upon a time there was a humble man named Burt Shavitz. A true man of the land, he lived in quiet obscurity. He spent his days selling pickle jars full of honey on the side of the road. At night he would nestle down in his modest Maine home, a converted Turkey Coop, with no need for running water or electricity.

Tried and true, Burt lived the idealistic lifestyle that so many eco-warriors of today strive for: never taking more than he could return to the land, always respecting the size of his footprint here on Mother Earth.  It would seem almost sad that our hero’s message might live and die with him, so perhaps the fates intervened. In one simple act of kindness, Burt would forever change his life, and the lives of millions of people. His face was about to be on everyone’s lips.

By most accounts she was a hitchhiker that he took in from the cold. From her own account she met him on the side of the road. Whichever the case, the day Roxanne Quimby entered Burt Shavitz’s orbit, she triggered a chain of events that would lead to love, discourse, and ultimately, the birth of Burt’s Bees.  In the end, she inherited a $300 million bounty, and Burt returned to his turkey coop, where he still lives today. The brainchild of this union, conceived with a focus on health, environmental and humanitarian ideals, fell into the hands of the notorious Clorox Corporation. It would seem our heroes’ purist philosophy would be devoured by the toxic cogs of capitalism.  But this is just the beginning of the story.

For $913 million, Clorox bought the keys to the all-natural kingdom. Now at the helm of the “Greater Good” business model that so embodied Burt and Roxanne’s values, would they devour it? Or worse, green wash it? Watchdogs chided, advocates chuffed and consumers read the labels ever more carefully. Here is where you’ll find me in this story, along with fellow lotion latherers, scrutinizing every ingredient and claim of our beloved Burt’s Bees products. The rumors were disturbing:

  • Importing beeswax from overseas? Exploiting cheap labor in Africa??!
  • Testing on animals? Synthetic chemicals? Mass distribution in Wal-Mart??!!
  • Heath+  Environmental +Humanitarian Values=  Big BLEACH???!!!  Eww.

What has happened to our beautiful, transparent, locavore lover’s lip balm?
What has become of the “Greater Good” business model?

Things were not adding up. It was time to do some serious digging. I’d discover the truth about our beloved Burt’s Bees, and swear off those cherished creams and balms forever!!! *Sob*

But what happened next, and what continues to happen today, is nothing short of a tale torn right from the pages of fable.  Could the idealist underdog battle the Goliath of industry and…win? Would the toxic giant pause in the moment before destruction to study its strange new victim? Could it learn from it…and even…change?

It is here that we find that answers are not always black and white, and that the spade you call is not always a spade. It is also here that I find myself with egg on my face, and a fine lesson on what happens when you ASS-U-ME.

It may look like ordinary corporate fluff, but this 2010 report card is chock full of transparency. They literally open their doors and let you in. From their ingredients  to their supply chain, from culture to community efforts; it all ties in to the Greater Good Model, the glue that holds it all together; and  it’s all in there, for all to see.
*See shocking footage of animal testing… (Well not exactly, but that’s just because we don’t have tails. Yes it’s true, they rub creams on themselves to test them. A lot. )

You’ll also learn that they require suppliers to test and certify their natural ingredients, and then just in case, they test them again. The average percentage of all-natural in ingredients in their products is 99.36% and over half of their products are 100% all natural. Compared to what’s on the broad market, those are some pretty nice numbers.

Recently, Burt’s Bees European Manager Andrew Dixon put himself on the line- quite literally. In October of 2010 he was the target of You Ask, They Answer at  Guardian UK . Dixon answered questions from people all over the world, about everything from matte lipstick styles  to Fair Trade. He reassured us about their policy against Synthetics. He explains why they import so much wild beeswax from South Africa, and the sustainability practices they are fostering.

Perhaps these questions provoked the answers we find in that 2010 report card.
And who’s that?  The man Burt Shavitz himself, checking in from his perfectly fine turkey coop, to spread awareness about Colony Collapse Disorder:

What about Clorox and all those chemicals? Well their broad market reach means more people will enjoy the all natural goodness of Burt’s Bees. And they are trying with their Green Works products and their animal testing policies.  Though, I am a little freaked out by the thought of a hand grown in a lab. But we’ll keep an eye on you Clorox, to see if the Greater Good bees really can spread their all natural pollen throughout your industrial hive.

As for now, our beloved Burt’s Bees would appear to be a hive in and of itself, humming along with the buzz birthed by Burt & Roxanne, whizzing ahead on their mission for the greater good.  Saying I was wrong never made my lips feel sooo good. 🙂

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About Petunia GreenBeans

Hello! I'm the Founder and Chief seed planter of my GreenBeans Dream. Have any questions, fire away! More you say? Okay...you asked for it: Earth lovin', E-cyclin', Guitar strummin', Kid snugglin' closet fiction writer/addict steeped in the Wireless Industry since beepers were the rage. Stuck on changing the world a little bit at a time. Not foolin'. Proud member of Run-On Sentencers Anonymous ;) How about you?
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