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Shocking News: Burt’s Bees Might No Longer Be Cruelty-Free

The rumors about Burt’s Bees entering the Chinese market are sadly true.

Today, I received a confirmation from the company stating that they’re selling some of their cosmetics in mainland China, where animal testing is required by law.

This comes as a surprise, since Burt’s Bees has always marketed itself as an “earth-friendly” company with “sustainable” practices, and has steered clear from animal testing for the past 32 years. This is even after being purchased by Clorox in 2007.

However in the past year alone, Burt’s Bees expanded its market and can now be found in 40 countries including mainland China.

Correspondence

Hello Suzi,

Thank you for contacting Burt’s Bees.

We are happy to shed light on this matter for you. Currently, we are selling a limited number of our products in mainland China. The formulas for these products, classified as “non-special use cosmetics,” are currently made in our US facilities, using only ingredients listed on the Inventory of Existing Cosmetic Ingredients in China (IECIC), and then the products are packaged in China. For more information on individual ingredients, visit our guide here. Please know that we are proceeding only in the instances where we can maintain adherence to our no animal testing policy.

Again, thank you for contacting us.

Sincerely,
Burt’s Bees Consumer Services

What Does This Mean?

There’s the possibility that Burt’s Bees will no longer be considered cruelty-free.

Here’s why:

While they’re claiming to be working really hard on using loopholes to avoid animal testing, the possibility of an American company maintaining its cruelty-free status after entering the Chinese market is very slim, to say the least.

Burt’s Bees is doing everything to avoid pre-market animal testing in China, which is wonderful and something we can applaud. Based on their e-mail, they successfully circumvented pre-market animal testing, which means that their products didn’t require to be tested on animals in order to be sold in China.

The unfortunate part is that China also requires post-market animal testing. Any cosmetics, even those that are manufactured within China and are considered “non-special-use cosmetics”, may be taken off the shelves and tested on animals.

Post-market testing is documented by Humane Society International. It’s also the reason why The Body Shop pulled out of China after they tried evading the pre-maket testing laws by only selling in Chinese airports.

A Misleading Policy?

Even after entering the Chinese market, Burt’s Bees still claims to be a cruelty-free company. The following is their official policy from their website, as of September 23, 2016:

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 on our packaging to reinforce our commitment. Please know we are absolutely committed to our no animal testing policy.

Is this misleading, considering the possibility of post-market animal testing?

Burt’s Bees is using the updated animal testing law of June 2014 to (supposedly) avoid pre-market testing. That change in the law made it possible for non-special-use cosmetics that are manufactured in China using safe ingredients to avoid animal testing.

Unfortunately, that law didn’t have any impact of the post-market animal testing law, which still applies to any company, Chinese or foreign. This include Burt’s bees.

Megan Fang, Chinese law expert, claimed in this article:

See Also

“Chinese authorities have indicated that they intend to increase the level of post-market testing following the 30 June policy change for domestically manufactured non-special-use cosmetics, to ensure a consistent level of consumer protection. ”

Leaping Bunny Certification

Burt’s Bees hasn’t officially lost its cruelty-free status. They’re still on Leaping Bunny’s list as well as PETA’s caring consumer list.

I e-mailed Leaping Bunny today and I’m waiting for the outcome.

Edit: Leaping Bunny has been looking into this issue and is in correspondence with Burt’s Bees about it but needs more information from them to make a determination on whether or not they will remain on their list.

I also asked Burt’s Bees for clarifications on whether or not their products might be tested on animals in China post-market, and this is the (empty) response I received:

We are happy to clarify this for you. 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 on our packaging to reinforce our commitment.

Bottom Line

At this very moment, it’s my understanding that any products that Burt’s Bees is selling in mainland China can be pulled from the shelves and tested on animals in compliance with post-market animal testing law.

In my view, this means that Burt’s Bees is no longer a cruelty-free brand, and I’ve removed them from my list.

I’m still waiting on responses from Humane Society International, Leaping Bunny, and the company itself for more clarification.

What’s your take on Burt’s Bees’ cruelty-free status?

View Comments (98)
  • Ugh, I’m so upset over with their decision to sell their products in China. I use lots of their products and will now be looking elsewhere. Do you have any recommendations on tear free child body wash and body lotion for sensitive kiddos? In the meantime, I’m curious to see if Leaping Bunny takes away their status.

    • I love the fragrance-free baby lotion from Shea Moisture — I use it on my own super-sensitive skin daily and have never had a reaction. I’ve not tried the corresponding wash/shampoo, but honestly, I’ve never even had a reaction to the scented Shea Moisture products I’ve used [African black soap, and raw shea butter with frankincense & myrrh].

      • Do not use “The Honest Company”, I was very disappointed to note that some of their products are made in China therefore the company is not cruelty free!

        • Products can be made in China without being subject to animal testing. For example, Anastasia Beverly Hills manufactures in China, but never sells there, so they maintain their cruelty-free status.

    • I would recommend the Tata Harper products, they have done wonders to my skin and I noticed the change in 1 week. 🙂

  • I’ve never bought from or used Burts Bees before because of the beekeeping industry, but it’s a downright shame that they’ve become sellouts and decided to expand their business to China for $$$. It’s really disappointing, especially for those that have been loyal customers for so long.

    Stephii Mattea xx

  • Ughhh, that is so disappointing. I use a number of Burt’s Bees products on me and my kid. It’s so frustrating to see company after company getting lured onto the Chinese market.

  • I’ve used BB’s tinted lip balms for years and really love them but if this is true I’ll be looking elsewhere.

  • They haven’t been cruelty free since being bought by Clorox. I don’t care what the company’s policies are, they share their money with their parent company. Same with The Body Shop.

  • Such a shame that the company would choose expanding their market for money when they’re aware that it would mean being required to test on animals. I use many Burt’s Bee’s products and was hoping someone could provide some alternative options for me. (Most importantly some new lip balm that works just as well)

  • I am very disappointed. We have sensitive skin and have used them in the past and even given their products as gifts a number of times. Now we won’t in the future. What a shame since the image they present is natural and earth friendly so their target customer would mostly not be in favor of this change. Now I need to find a new tinted lip balm. I am thinking of trying Pacificas any other tinted lip balm ideas for very sensitive skin? We are also switching to no carmine in the future once we learned about that recently too.

    • There are many companies that have great products for sensitive skins and have an array of products to choose from like Meow Meow Tweet; Sola Skincare; Lush; Forever Living etc, there are so many. Just need to sit down one day and research the internet ???

      • Thank you so much for the suggestions-I really appreciate it. I am a little under the weather so it is the perfect week for me to check those companies out 🙂
        I so appreciate this article alerting all of us about what is going on as well and spreading the word.

    • I love Pacifica but actually don’t care for their tinted balms all that much…mostly b/c I find them to have an odd perfumery flavor that I don’t care for, & they aren’t the most moisturizing so I probably wouldn’t recommend them to you. My top recommendation would be the Hurraw balms, which are fab & do have two tinted options, though their tints are very minimal/ subtle. Others you may want to consider for more color are 100% pure, Flower Beauty (Walmart only), Honeybee Gardens (ULTA carries some online), & the All Natural Face. Wet n wild actually has some tinted balms as well though I don’t know much about them. Hope the info helps!!

      • Thank you so much for those really awesome helpful suggestions:) I am going to look into all of them. I really appreciate the tips on my journey striving for the most cruelty free lifestyle possible. It is so nice to know other people care so much about the same things I do. 🙂

  • This is so unfortunate! Corporate greed at its finest! It’s sad that they are expanding into a market that does not align with their “core values” just to turn a larger profit. I watched a documentary showing how the company got its start, it was truly a humble beginning. Too bad this is how it ends!! Thanks for the info Suzi!

    Much Love,
    -Stephanie Eva
    http://www.unicornsteph.com

  • Hey Suzi, thanks so much for looking in to this and clarifying the situation further! I really hope that through your website and others the word gets out and people won’t be blindly buying their products anymore thinking they’re supporting a real cruelty free company. We can only hope that the backlash will be severe enough that they’ll notice it there where it hurts them most. Which apparently is no longer their hearts but their wallets.

  • I am so disappointed. Burts Bees was a wonderful brand. I loved so much of their products, especially their lip balm. But I will no longer support them. It’s disgusting that they would still choose to sell in China knowing their products can be tested post market. yeah they’re totally committed to being cruelty free.

  • Very interesting thank you. And thank you for the links towards the article about The Body Shop in China, I’ve started looking into cruelty free brands and your blog is an amazing source.

  • For me, Burt’s Bee stopped been cruelty free when they were bought by Clorox. So the fact that they sell in China or not, makes no difference to me as I haven’t bought their products since the sell out. And I’d also heard that China might change their laws on animal testing. I’d lived in China and you can find cruelty and vegan products there. You just have to now where to go to get them. 🙂

  • Hey hon, excellent post! Based on everything you’ve exposed and my own research on China and animal testing THEY’RE OFF my list too! Such a shame everyone gets so greedy in the end. As large as the world is there is no need to bow before a cruel country like China for their custom. If they were really cruelty, knowing how the Chinese already mislable their products to enter our markets and are notorious for bending the law to suit them, they would never have anything to do with the Chinese market. I already boycott as much as I can the products made in China, Korea and Thailand! They are definitely not being honest here and the buck is the master unfortunately!

      • Wow, ignorant much? You obviously have no idea and are being judgmental without even understanding the comment. The conversation is about the Chinese/Asian markets not all Asian people. Grow up!

  • I am very upset that BB is now selling in China but if they were truly selling out then why are they still going through all the trouble to get around pre-market testing and it is not entirely fair to blame them for the post-market testing if they are not involved nor are benefiting from it and this does give people in china the opportunity to choose products that are less cruel than others and maybe if enough people in China switch to using brands that would be considered cruelty free (if not for selling in China) there might be a policy change. I know this a highly idealistic idea but what maybe sad for us may give people in China a chance to contribute (even in a small way) to the cruelty free movement.

  • I’m very sad about this. Just before I received this email I bought a Burts Bee’s lip balm, and I was telling my mother about how excited I was that it worked great and smelled great, etc. Do you have any recommendations for cruelty free lip balms especially ones I can find at the drug store (with scents would be nice).

    • My favorite that is easily accessible @ the drug store is yes to coconuts. I LOVE their lip balm!! Believe it or not Lip Smackers, by Bonne Belle, are cruelty free; they aren’t the most moisturizing by any means but they do have a lot of flavors, & their SPF balms are go-tons for me as a base/primer for other lip products. Last but not least I have to recommend the Hurraw balms…they are incredible & come in a myriad of flavors, including several formulas including a night treatment, a SPF balm, & several w/ a subtle tint. You may be able to find them @ a health food type store but I’ve not been so lucky. Most people have to order online but if you purchase a handful at once it’s well worth it, & they usually add an extra one in as a bonus!! Hope the info helps:)

  • How do I feel? Heartbroken would be close. I have worked so hard to try and change everything I do and own to be cruelty and toxic free and I have clung to Burt’s Bees and I have loved everything I have bought. If this is true then it is a very sad day indeed and I will no longer be buying from them. Anyone know a good hand balm to replace theirs?

    • Badger Balm! They’re leaping bunny certified, all natural, and free of animal products other than bee products. I’m surprised I’ve never seen them listed here, but they’re amazing! Best handbalm ever!

      • I have never heard of that but it is available in the UK and not too pricey so thank you very very much Kate!

  • I contacted Burt’s Bees myself. They say they are only selling by mail order in China, not in stores, so they aren’t subject to the animal testing law. What do you think?

  • Thanks for this article. Saddened that they have started selling in China. I won’t be buying their products anymore..sigh. I’ve been using their face wash, lip balm, and acne spot treatment. Time for a replacement. I will also be letting them company know they lost a customer.

  • I’m really saddened by this news and thanks for sharing, it’s very upsetting to hear about a brand that I love and doesn’t test on animals, has now chosen money over cruelty free. Very disappointing. I’ll be shopping elsewhere in future.

  • It’s not really the company that sickens me, its the system that dupes foreign companies into manufacturing in their country in order to avoid animal tests and then just does them anyway. Bah!

  • I found this at Burt’s Bees page, you posted part of the message, here is the complete one: Burt’s Bees is currently only selling products in China via direct-to-consumer ecommerce, 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.
    After reading it, I still think they are cruelty free.

    • I didn’t only post part of the statement. What’s in this post is everything I received, and they didn’t follow up. What you’re pasting is a statement they made AFTER their initial explanation. Initially, they never told anyone that they’re only selling online.

      I’m still highly skeptical of this whole ordeal. I’m not saying Burt’s Bees isn’t cruelty-free, but I decided to take them off my list just in case.

      • Exactly Suzi, well said! There are many cruelty free brands that aren’t on the borderline and you can completely trust.

  • I am hopeful that they will remain cruelty-free after reading this on their site. I will continue to check Leaping Bunny to try to stay updated. Unfortunately, there was no date with this post from the Burt’s Bees site.

    Thank you for reaching out to us. We appreciate and share your passion on the important issue of animal testing. Burt’s Bees is unwavering in its cruelty-free commitment, and does not test its products on animals, nor do we ask others to do so on our behalf. 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 detailing their testing, Burt’s Bees products are not listed among those subjected to post-market testing during this limited test.

    With this test complete, Burt’s Bees is currently only selling products in China via direct-to-consumer ecommerce, a channel which is exempt from Chinese animal testing regulations (pre or post-market). Please know that we are absolutely committed to our no animal testing policy, and we are proceeding only in the instances where we can maintain strict adherence to it.

    Read more at http://www.burtsbees.com/content/at—china—retail/faqs-animalretailChina.html#ugzUMGJ2ysw46bQR.99

  • Never buying this brand again. Thanks for the info. Can you please post about neogen dermatologics please. They claim to be cruelty free. Thanks!

  • I heard rumors a couple months ago & asked Leaping Bunny if they would take away that certification. Back in December, they told me they checked with Burt’s Bees directly & they weren’t selling in China. Now that they have admitted to selling products there, I’m interested in what LB would tell me now. I’m a longtime Burt’s Bees customer & have many of their products. This is all very disheartening.

  • I’m hoping that they just didn’t consider the post-market testing and were genuinely trying to use the loopholes. I know it’s unlikely, but maybe they’ll see their mistake and pull out of the Chinese market.

  • First, you need to fact check – China has been moving away from animal testing since 2015. Second, the Chinese are also seeking organic, good-for you products. Suggesting that they don’t deserve the opportunity to purchase cruelty-free American brands is kinda racist…

    • This comment makes no sense. First, “moving away from animal testing” means nothing when it’s still required there. Second, people in mainland China literally *cannot* buy cruelty-free beauty products in physical stores *because animal testing is required there*. Third, no one is saying anything about race.

  • I was under the impression that Lush was cruelty free It is not on leaping bunnies list
    Does anybody know why not ?

    • To be on Leaping Bunny or any list that includes a consumer sticker (for example, Halal certified sticker) you have to pay that organisation to be featured on there and meet their requirements. Lush actually surpasses Leaping Bunny’s requirements with their own ethical policies so they don’t see the need to pay for a spot on their list. A sticker from an organisation like Leaping Bunny is mostly a marketing strategy to let consumers know at a glance that something adheres to certain guidelines or rules, but they’re not freely given or offered by those organisations even if the company meets/surpasses their requirements. Hope that helped!

  • This whole thing seems really shady. Sometimes they claim they are not selling in China, sometimes they say they are but only through “direct-to-consumer e-commerce which is exempt from animal testing” (I have never heard of such a process). Always, they come back to the fact that they are Leaping Bunny certified, as if that’s all we need to know. I’m very sceptical.

  • I’ve personally never used Burt’s bees because to me you cannot have cruelty free products that contain honey. It’s up to each person what they decide is cruelty free but I think bee farms are awful

  • Shame on you Burt’s Bees!! I guess GREED & MONEY over rule the Compassionate & Kind companies in the long run!! So SAD!! After 25 years, see you later!! You will no longer have my dollars!!

  • I tried to google som information about this matter. Seems like My beauty bunny have also looked into this and recieved some more answers.I will post the link so you can see. I do not have in-depht knowledge of this yet, so I am still unsure about Burt’s bees. It is a shame because it is one of those brands I really loved.

    – Line

    Link: http://mybeautybunny.com/burts-bees-cruelty-free/

  • I hope that this is an effort on the part of Burt’s Bees to fight the law in China, saying “We want to give your citizens the opportunity to buy locally and use our products, but only if our moral standards are kept.” We will have to see…

  • In my opinion Burt’s bees’ isn’t cruelty free to begin with. The bee keeping industry is not humane so I stopped purchasing their products when I became vegan.

  • I got this reply by them on twitterwhen I asked them if they sell to China “We sell products in China via direct-to-consumer ecommerce, a channel which is exempt from Chinese animal testing regulations.”

    What does it mean? Is it true? Does it mean they actually don’t test on animals but still sell to China? ?

  • Thanks so much for your honesty and willingness to keep searching for the truth about companies. I tried to review a Burt’s Bees product I bought on Superdrug’s website recently and I mentioned that although the product was great, I was disappointed by their recent decisions. It was caught by Superdrug’s censors and the entire review as not printed! Thank goodness for people like you who spread the word. The big stores can’t shut us down here. I am new to cruelty-free and you are helping me so, so much with my research. Thank you for all that you do!

  • here in shanghai where the consumer market is growing, beauty products are sold with no regulations regarding animal testing. the relationship to animals is different–turtles swimming live in little buckets in a restaurant, small swordfish in aquariums waiting to be chosen for dinner,dogs slaughtered in southern china, cats grilled for kebab on roadside stalls outside the city, have made me turn to vegetarianism.

  • According to a few people who asked deeper questions about this Burt’s are selling ‘special use’ direct to customers.
    This means they are exempt from China’s testing laws.

  • How vile of this company to betray its customers who have trusted them and given them their loyalty?
    Are they so desperate for money that they have to expand to China?
    Is the big buck talking for them now? When it comes to money have their ethics gone out of the window?
    If companies refused to sell to China then China might be pressurised to stop this disgusting practice.
    As it is China is getting its own way.
    Well Burts Bees has lost me. No way will I buy 1 more product from them

  • I’ll never buy Burt’s Bees again. I will not ever buy those products that are sold in China again. I’m new to this, and it’s opened my eyes regarding the products I’ve loved for years. I will not just throw away my make up, but I will be conscientious about my products from now on.

  • If their products are tested on animals anywhere, at any time, they should no longer be considered cruelty free.

  • Hi! I just found this statement on their website. What do you think?

    Burt’s Bees is currently only selling products in China via direct-to-consumer ecommerce, 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.
    Read more at https://www.burtsbees.com/content/at—china/faqs-animalsChina.html#g4jXhMk3qXp7B2PI.99

  • Is it true Burt’s Bees pulled out from Chinese market ? They still clame to be CF and I read in another vegan cf website that they pulled out their products from the Chinese market.

  • IS THIS TRUE?……
    I’m hearing people say if Burt’s bees are selling their products in America their cruelty free so basically if your in America purchasing products from Burt’s and bees it’s cruelty free but if you buy their products in China or any other countries their not it depends on the laws and the location

  • I would disagree as it’s not them that are doing the testing it’s the Chinese government. If the US government decided to do off the shelf animal testing then using this logic any cruelty free company would then no longer be cruelty free. I think they are controlling what they can.

  • I am just hearing of them being bought by Clorox plus selling in China this is all sad news. I loved there products but will no longer be purchasing after learning this. I’m also curious how there cruelty free if there now owned by Clorox who does test on animals. Getting sick of great brands being bought out by big companies with no ethics.

  • I was (notice the past tense) considering trying a Burt’s Bees foundation, but after reading this, I’m pulling the plug.
    I think I’ll take a look at The Body Shop, instead.

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