January 10, 2008

Burt's Bees Bleach?

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Burt's Bees natural beauty products began in 1984, when beekeeper Burt Shavitz picked up Roxanne Quimby hitchhiking in Dexter, Maine. The company grew from beeswax candles sold at crafts fairs to a full line of natural beauty products for adults and babies (click here for our review of Burt's Bees Citrus Facial Scrub). Now, Clorox has purchased the company for almost $1 billion. What will this do to Burt's Bees quality? Will Clorox go green?

Clorox plans to take Burt's Bees into big box stores and make it a mainstream American brand. Like other corporate buyouts of natural companies, such as Colgate-Palmolive purchasing Tom's of Maine, natural consumers are left wondering if this is another attempt at greenwashing by a major corporation. As the New York Times writes,

Many corporate leaders have sold their shareholders on green initiatives by pointing out that they help cut costs — an argument that is more persuasive now, while energy costs are sky high. But as companies rush to put out more and more “natural,” “organic” or “green” products, consumers and advocacy groups are increasingly questioning the meaning of these labels.

Burt's Bee's cofounder Roxanne Quimby has moved on since the sale and started an organic children's clothing company called Happy Green Bee (see Eco Child's Play). Happy Green Bee offers organic, fair trade, sustainably produced cotton clothing for infants and toddlers. Quimby has also purchased 100,000 acres of land to preserve, whereas cofounder Burt Shavitz is still living in his converted turkey coop without running water or electricity.

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Posted by Jennifer Lance at January 10, 2008 9:30 AM

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