Your guide to natural and organic living

Burt’s Bees

November 24, 2008

Burt’s Bees is a US brand that started with Burt’s passion for bee keeping and collection of beeswax he’d been storing away for years.


Burt’s Bees is an American company that was formed in 1984 by Roxanne (Ms. Quimby) and Burt (Mr. Shavitz). Burt was already a bee keeper with around 30 hives and made his money from selling jars of honey from his truck. Roxanne met Burt when she volunteered to help keep the bees.

Burt had been storing beeswax in his house for years because he was convinced he would find a use for it one day and therefore reluctant to let it go. Once Roxanne had learn’t about his store of beeswax she was eager to use it for something. They started off using the wax to make beeswax candles and selling them at Christmas Fairs where they sold like hot cakes. The word about their candles soon spread to New York and as demand increased, so did the number of employees. The first Burt’s Bees shop was set up in an abandoned bowling alley. Soon after this Roxanne found a book of 19th Century book of homemade personal care recipes that she started adding the beeswax to…and from there, Burt’s Bees as we know it today was born! The company was later incorporated and their product ranges have been expanding ever since.

I found an article in the New York Times which said Roxeanne bought Burt out of the company in the early 90’s for a 6 figures sum after they had a disagreement.

Clorox takeover

At the end of 2007, Burt’s Bees announced the selling of the company to bleach manufacturer Clorox, for a whopping $925 million! This is viewed by many as a strange move by Burt’s Bees, because of the very different underlying missions and values of the two companies.

Key information about the takeover:

  • Roxeanne was paid $177 million by Clorox for her stake in Burt’s Bees
  • Clorox was willing to pay almost $1 billion for Burt’s Bees whose revenue from 2000 to 2007, soared from $23 million to $164 million
  • John Replogle says Burt’s Bees’ 380 employees have an opportunity to influence the direction of Clorox
  • Clorox decided not to put their brand on Burt’s Bees products
  • Mr. Replogle said that the company obtains all of its beeswax from hives in Ethiopia which is across the atlantic (Source: “New York Times – Can Burt’s Bees Turn Clorox Green?”)
  • The aim of Clorox is to turn Burt’s Bees into a mainstream American brand.

Their products are created in their own manufacturing plant in Durham, NC


Burt’s Bees create earth friendly, natural skincare products and cosmetics. They say,:

“Our products average 99% natural, with half being 100% natural. We will continue to strive for 100% natural on all our products.”


Beeswax is a primary ingredient in all Burt’s Bees products,

“The bees first produce a wax honeycomb where they can store their honey. The honeycomb then is capped off and the bees move on to build another big hive. When that’s full, the bees are moved to a new location to start all over again”.

Aside from beeswax, Burt’s Bees products include:

  • Fragrance – natural from essentials oils, synthetic or a combination of both
  • Natural colouring from beta-carotene, chlorophyll, titanium dioxide, mica, iron oxides and carmine (because it’s a red pigment from a non-synthetic source)
  • Herbs
  • Titanium dioxide as a natural mineral block in products with an SPF

Ethics, values and principles

Cruelty free – No Burt’s Bees products or ingredients have been tested on animals.

Safe cosmetics agreement – Burt’s have joined the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics which means that they have agreed to place hazardous ingredients to safer alternatives.

Conservation – Burt’s Bees donate and work with a variety of charities and organisations to minimise their impact on the environment.

  • The Nature Conservatory: Burt’s Bees pledge $2 million to The Nature Conservatory each year. This money goes towards helping to conserve 185,00 acroes of Maine forests along the St. John River.
  • The Conservation Aliance: Work to conserve threatened wild places for habitats and recreation.
  • The National Arbor Day Foundation: The foundation worked with Burt’s Bees to plant 4000 trees in the ‘2006-2007 Bee-utify Your World’ cross-country mobile tour.

Consumer education – regional managers go to the Burt’s Bees stores to teach consumers about the benefits of natural body care and caring for the Earth.

Natural Products Association – Burt’s Bees has also led a group of companies who are working with the Natural Products Association to create a standard for natural personal care products. This includes a label to show consumers the percentage of natural content in a product.


Burt’s Bees’ packaging is both recyclable and made from Post Consumer recycled materials to have the lowest impact on the environment as possible.

Burt’s are a member of the Sustainable Packaging Coalition.