Is Burt’s Bees Cruelty Free, Vegan, and Sustainable?

Burt's Bees beauty products like lip balm and cuticle cream are cruelty free

Treehugger / Photo illustration by Catherine Song / Burt's Bees

Burt’s Bees is committed to sustainability and recently announced plans to reach a net-zero plastic footprint by 2025. While the brand is cruelty free, Burt’s Bees is not vegan-friendly, as its heritage is built on its usage of bee byproducts.

Best known for its lip balm, Burt’s Bees natural line of personal care products has developed a cult-following since it was introduced in 1984. The brand can be found in grocery and drugstores across the U.S., and its lineup includes everything from color cosmetics to body products.

In this article, we examine the brand’s cruelty free, ethical, and sustainability commitments as well as alternatives for vegans.

Treehugger's Green Beauty Standards: Burt’s Bees

  • Cruelty Free: Leaping Bunny certified.
  • Vegan: No, Burt’s Bees uses animal-derived ingredients.
  • Ethical: A member of Global Shea Alliance, Responsible Mica Initiative, Natural Resources Stewardship Council, and Sedex and AIM-Progress, Burt’s Bees is committed to responsible sourcing.
  • Sustainable: Certified CarbonNeutral and working towards becoming a zero-waste brand.

Cruelty Free Certified

Burt’s Bees has been Leaping Bunny certified since 2008, indicating the absence of animal testing throughout the entire chain of production.

In 2020, the brand began selling direct-to-consumer in China via online e-commerce, which is exempt from Chinese animal testing regulations. The brand stands firm on its cruelty free policy and reinforces its commitment on all of its packaging.

Is Burt’s Bees Ethical?

Burt’s Bees is committed to sourcing all of its ingredients responsibly. In 2012 the brand launched its Community Sourced initiative which is dedicated to forming mutually beneficial partnerships with communities in regions where it sources ingredients. Furthermore, ingredients are evaluated against several key factors including scarcity, grower capacity, and potential environmental impacts.

The brand also has a membership with several global responsible sourcing organizations, including Sedex, AIM-Progress, Global Shea Alliance, and the Natural Resources Stewardship Circle.

Burt's Bees sources most of its mica domestically, and has also helped establish the Responsible Mica Initiative with the goal of improving supply chain practices in India.

In its 2020 Impact Report, Burt’s Bees says over 20,000 livelihoods have been impacted by its Responsible Sourcing Assessments and third-party audits, which ensure workers' rights, health, and safety, as well as fair labor standards and business ethics.

In addition, through its 20 Global Supply Chain Investment Program projects, the brand works to protect access to clean water and supports women’s and children’s empowerment. This includes several projects that have helped to uplift more than 14,000 women in West African shea communities through production training, while also preparing at least 600 women to become beekeepers.

Sustainability Efforts

Burt's Bees Launches Hive With Heart Campaign Benefiting Lipstick Angels
Jason Merritt/TERM / Getty Images

Since 2010, Burt’s Bees has kept its operational waste out of landfills, diverting everything to compost, recycling centers, or waste-to-energy facilities. In January 2021, the brand transitioned to 100% renewable electricity. 

Burt’s Bees has been CarbonNeutral Certified since 2015 and made several climate action commitments including pledging a 50% reduction of its usage of virgin packaging materials (plastic and fiber) by 2030, and a goal of reaching 100% recyclable, reusable, or compostable packaging for all products.

Currently, the brand selects high post-consumer recycled material packaging like aluminum, steel, paper, glass, and plastics that are more readily recyclable.

In January 2021, Burt’s Bees launched its Rescue Lip Balm, packaged in a bioresin tube made from upcycled potatoes and post-consumer recycled content.

Moreover, through a partnership with TerraCyle, the brand collects hard-to-recycle items such as pumps and lip balm tubes, which can be mailed free of charge by requesting a shipping label on Burt's Bee's website.

Bees and Beeswax

Almost half of the beeswax used in Burt’s Bees products is wild-harvested from tree hives in Tanzania, where the company has developed long-term relationships with local beekeepers. The beekeepers suspend the hives in trees that are swarmed by bees and they use ropes to lower the hives from the trees for harvesting.

When it comes to the bees the brand relies heavily on, Burt’s Bees has a foundation that focuses on restoring biodiversity. As part of the program, the company has planted over 15 billion wildflower seeds alongside farmland to support farmers and provide pollinators with much-needed nourishing forage in the face of threats such as monocrop agriculture and pests.

Finally, as part of the Clorox company of brands, Burt’s Bees is dedicated to working with third parties to ensure its palm oil is sourced sustainably from operations that protect peatlands, respect human rights, and do not contribute to deforestation.

Burt's Bees Top 10 Recommended Products

  • Beeswax lip balm
  • Lemon butter cuticle cream
  • Hand salve
  • Almond and milk hand cream
  • Herbal complexion stick
  • Coconut foot cream
  • Micellar makeup removing towelettes
  • Cleansing oil with coconut and argan oils
  • Overnight intensive lip treatment
  • Wild rose and berry lip butter

Why Burt’s Bees Products Cannot Be Considered Vegan

Burt’s Bees brand launched its hero lip balm product in 1991 which utilizes beeswax. The brand’s website even states, “Without Beeswax, there’d be no Burt’s Bees.” It’s used as an emulsifier to bind ingredients and as an occlusive to prevent moisture from escaping. Other bee byproducts used include honey and royal jelly. In addition, some items in the collection feature milk, carmine, and lanolin.

While some of its products, such as its toothpaste, may be vegan, the brand is very clear that it will not be able to label any of its products as vegan or vegetarian as they are typically made on shared production lines with the possibility of contamination.

Vegan Alternatives to Burt’s Bees

While Burt’s Bees is cruelty free, ethical, and has strong sustainability initiatives, the brand’s bee-centric and animal-derived ingredients do not make it suitable for vegans. Below are a few alternative brands to try that meet Treehugger’s Green Beauty Standards.

Derma-E

Derma-E features a product range similar to Burt’s Bees while being completely vegan. The brand is Leaping Bunny certified, manufactures its products using wind power to reduce its environmental impact, and sources its ingredients from conscientious origins.

River Organics

River Organics offers a variety of makeup and skin care options similar to Burt’s Bees and uses plant-oils as the base for all products. The brand is Leaping Bunny certified, vegan, and lessens its ecological footprint through its usage of eco-friendly paper packaging, compostable labels, and Eco-Enclose's 100% Recycled Padded Mailers.

Meow Meow Tweet

If an alternative to Burt’s Bees popular lip balm is what you’re after, try Meow Meow Tweet. The brand’s lip balm is housed in a compostable paper tube and features a blend of organic cocoa butter, coconut oil, and olive fruit oil that can be used on lips, hands, and other areas to prevent dryness. The brand is Leaping Bunny certified and ingredients are sourced from strong or renewable plant populations.

View Article Sources
  1. "Impact 2020 + 2025 Vision." Burt's Bees.

  2. "Uplifting Women in Shea." Burt's Bees.

  3. "From the Source." Burt's Bees.

  4. "Minding Our Beeswax." Burt's Bees.