Is Burt’s Bees Really Cruelty-Free?

On my quest to lead a sustainable and cruelty-free lifestyle, I’ve been a bit of a Burt’s Bees convert. So it was a surprise to hear fellow green bloggers complaining about Burt’s Bees and its non-compliance with cruelty-free standards recently. Looking at the numerous bottles and pots of lovely creams and balms, I felt deeply upset – not only was most of my collection given to me as a Christmas present especially chosen to suit my new-found sustainable lifestyle, but they’re not cheap either! However, upon closer inspection I found that all of my products display the Leaping Bunny symbol, indicating their cruelty-free status. So, what’s the deal?

The truth about Burt’s Bees

In 2007, Burt’s Bees was acquired by Clorox, a company which freely admits that it tests on animals. However, Burt’s Bees, as a subsidiary, has continued its cruelty-free approach, declaring that their products and even their ingredients are not tested on animals – something that isn’t assured by all cruelty-free brands. I believe this is where the crux of the matter lies. My question is this – how far should we look into the production chain in order to gauge cruelty-free status?

The Leaping Bunny defines what it considers cruelty-free status as, “no animal testing [is] conducted or commissioned for finished products or ingredients in any phase of product development by the company, its laboratories or its suppliers”. Essentially, the Leaping Bunny represents the complete absence of animal testing in its chain of production, including third-party suppliers. This means that, while Clorox does test on animals in its other subsidiaries, it remains completely cruelty-free in its Burt’s Bees branch. This is where things become divisive, however. Depending on your personal stance, you may still wish to not use Burt’s Bees products simply because the profits generated by the company will be repatriated to other business areas that do test on animals. Or, you will draw a line here and continue to support the company anyway.

Personally, I’ve come to the decision to not be opposed to their products because of the buy-out. It seems somewhat naïve to condemn a company that still maintains its ethics when its parent company does not hold the same view. In that respect, you could easily condemn me for being a vegetarian when the rest of my family is not! What I’m trying to say is, I will continue trust cruelty-free certified practices no matter who owns who, because I will still be creating more demand for these products. If we all did the same, companies like Clorox would convert to being a wholly cruelty-free organisation simply to stay in business.

Is Burt’s Bees vegan?

As an aside from its cruelty-free status, Burt’s Bees does disclose that a number of its ingredients are derived from animal sources – beeswax and royal jelly from bees, milk from livestock and carmine from insects. Of all of these, I’ve actually found carmine the hardest one to reason with, simply because the destruction of thousands of bugs for a nice red colour in their products seems so anti-cruelty-free to me. Milk is also tough to wrestle with, because my vegetarianism was in part to do with my disagreement with the way livestock are kept (I also don’t drink milk anymore, although other dairy products are still on my menu).

In this sense, Burt’s Bees is definitely not vegan. It would be equally interesting to see if the company could join the Real Beauty Manifesto (RBM), a program that was recently launched to join together beauty companies that are sustainable and transparent, as well as a few other wonderful things (you can read about all the RBM’s policies here). Depending on your personal preferences, it may therefore be wise to only choose green, natural and cruelty-free beauty products from sites such as LoveLula or Content Beauty. If you’re vegan, LoveLula has a great specialist vegan beauty section so you can shop without worry too.

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