Is Burt’s Bees Cruelty Free? I don’t know if you guys have noticed, but there have been some questions about Burt’s Bees and their cruelty free status. They fell off my cruelty free brand list for a short time, but now I have an update.
Is Burt’s Bees Cruelty Free?
I regularly consult with my “cruelty free squad” (Tashina from Logical Harmony, Courtney from Phyrra.net and Emily from Haus of Hounds) on brands and whether they are cruelty free or not. It can be VERY confusing (to say the least) to determine if a brand is truly cruelty free. Some brands have PETA and Leaping Bunny certification. Unfortunately, the PETA list is not very helpful. From what I understand, they often certify brands without getting confirmation that the brand’s suppliers, manufacturers, labs, etc are cruelty free. Leaping Bunny is the gold standard, and they do require extensive paperwork from suppliers, plus they audit brands periodically. But, no one is perfect, and every now and then a brand seems to slip by undetected.
I generally follow Leaping Bunny’s list, but I also have a list of cruelty free questions that I ask every brand to answer. You, as a fellow consumer, have every right to take my list and ask the brands yourselves. If anything weird or shady comes up, please contact me right away! Like it or not, the cruelty free list is fluid and always changing. Now, that being said, it’s very hard to determine who is telling the truth when it comes to questions about where the products are sold and if the suppliers are cruelty free. Sometimes brands lie, but more often than not, they just don’t know. And when they don’t know, they often don’t do any digging to find out. So you’ll get a “yes we are cruelty free” answer that isn’t accurate. The other issue is that you may be talking to a customer service representative or PR/marketing person who doesn’t know all the details. Sometimes you get a form letter type answer that doesn’t really address all your questions.
So – back to Burt’s Bees. Based on what Tashina, Courtney and some of my readers were told, Burt’s Bees was selling products in China recently. I took them off the cruelty free list, and put warnings on all of my old Burt’s Bees reviews. Since then, we have tried several times to reach them, with no luck. I finally got a very thorough and honest answer from a Burt’s Bees employee via Facebook DM, that I believe means they were cruelty free the entire time. Which is great news!
Here is the response I received from Burt’s Bees:
Hi Jennifer, thank you for reaching out, and kudos to you for the work you do on your blog. To answer your question, Burt’s Bees is currently only selling products in China via direct-to-consumer e-commerce, a channel which is exempt from Chinese animal testing regulations. Burt’s Bees does not test its products on animals nor do we ask others to do so on our behalf. You’ll see the Leaping Bunny seal and our “cruelty-free” stance on our packaging to reinforce our commitment. Please know that we are absolutely committed to our no animal testing policy, and are proceeding only in the instances where we can maintain unwavering adherence to it. Please let us know if we can be of any further assistance, as we’re happy to help answer your questions.
I asked about special use products in China and asked her to elaborate.
I was told that Burt’s Bees is selling products physically in mainland China but they are “special use” and don’t have to be tested on animals in order to be sold in stores there. And that your presence there will be increasing. Can you clarify?
Burt’s Bees responded:
Hi again, Jennifer. We’re happy to clarify things! In early 2015, we sold four products in China as part of a limited program necessitated to ensure our business was protected in that market, where counterfeit products were falsely being sold under our name. This limited test was not driven by and did not result in profit, but involved extensive resource investment and consultation with experts in multiple fields to ensure we proceeded without any compromise to our unyielding commitment to our no animal testing policy. The formulas for these products, which were classified as “non-special use cosmetics,” used only ingredients listed on the Inventory of Existing Cosmetic Ingredients in China (IECIC), underwent a paper risk assessment of raw materials, and therefore were exempt from pre-market animal testing. Our in-market regulatory experts advise us that China has not been actively engaged in post-market animal testing since 2008, and are instead focused on specific restricted substances, which did not apply to these Burt’s Bees products. As you can see on China’s current CFDA site (http://www.sfda.gov.cn/WS01/CL1754/144621.html) detailing their testing, Burt’s Bees products are not listed among those subjected to post-market testing during this limited and now complete test.
With this test finished, as we mentioned earlier, Burt’s Bees is now only selling products in China via direct-to-consumer ecommerce, a channel which is exempt from Chinese animal testing regulations (pre or post-market). I hope this has clarified our position. Please don’t hesitate to let us know if we can help further.
I have heard from groups like the Humane Society Int’l that selling in China without testing is impossible and avoiding post-market testing (where Chinese officials literally pull things from shelves in retail stores and test them) is unavoidable. I have also heard that a VERY select few brands have gotten around this (generally speaking – by having deep pockets and oftentimes by paying for alternative non-animal tests). I believe the latter is the case for Burt’s Bees, and I am putting them back on the cruelty free beauty brands list.
March 2019 UPDATE: Both PETA and Cruelty Free International have both announced that post market testing in China is no longer an issue. Read more here.
Edit: Another thing that may or may not be a concern for some. Burt’s Bees is owned by Clorox (a non-cruelty free company). I personally support all cruelty free brands, regardless of their parent company. I believe that supporting animal-friendly companies goes a long way toward the eventual elimination of animal testing. If the parent companies see the successes of their brands who do not test, it’s a win. It’s also a win for the animal-friendly companies to get larger distribution in mass channels by being involved with huge companies. That’s my personal opinion and I invite you to make up your own mind on the matter!
I would love to hear what you think in the comments below!