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Burt’s Bees: Rooted in Sustainability

Written by Kayla Bashore and Sarah Henderson

One of the main learning components of MBA 582: Business Sustainability is the opportunity to hear from key leaders and changemakers from all over the world. Guest lecturer, Paula Alexander, returned to the MBA 582 classroom for the first time since 2019. Paula is currently the Senior Director of Sustainability at the Clorox Company. While she works on most Clorox ESG initiatives, her experience remains heavily focused on Burt’s Bees which is a subsidiary of the Clorox business. Burt’s Bees was formed by two entrepreneurs with a love of nature and the preservation that comes with it. The company has kept these at the center of their mission with having ingredient from nature, no animal testing, responsible sourcing, and recyclable packaging. Paula has had the chance to oversee these initiatives propelling Burt’s Bees to be at the forefront of sustainability. Now, Clorox is ranked as the 2nd most sustainable company in America. 

Since Burt’s Bees is owned and operated by Clorox, Paula merged into looking at Clorox’s own sustainability initiatives. Incorporating some of Burt’s key pillars, Clorox redesigned its values on healthy lives, clean world, and thriving communities. Through this lecture, Paula explained the ambitious 2025 goals set by Burt’s Bees to create a full-circle future. The full-circle future aims to close the loop and create a circular economy and create a more responsible supply chain. Clorox itself has already taken the leap at creating renewable energy agreements making the business 100% renewable energy operated. 

Focusing more on Burt’s Bees, Paula and her team has worked on making Burt’s even more sustainable within healthy lives, clean world, and creating thriving communities. Burt’s Bees is focusing on a new brand positioning that combines the power of natural products, preserving the planet, and incorporates accurate diversity representation of its customers. In addition, Burt’s Bees believes in a transparent supply chain where Paula and her team has the opportunity to form partnerships with organizations across the globe in order to know where the product ingredients are being sourced. 

“We believe that it should not only be us investing in those supply chains, but our suppliers should be as well.”

One supply chain system Paula discussed with the class is the Women of Shea & SheKeeper Program. This three year program supports the women, shea kernel harvesting, beekeeping to these communities in Ghana. 

Shifting from traceability, Burt’s has looked at being more sustainable with recycled material. Beauty products can be difficult to dismantle and recycle when multiple raw materials are used in the product. Burt’s has found that they can repurpose cotton from up-cycled t-shirts for their wipes and have partnered with Loop to introduce refillable balms and cleansers to their product lines. Burt’s and Clorox still have loops to close for their products but they have made significant progress on solving the sustainability problems all companies face.

While winding down the conversation, a student asked Paula if she had life lessons to share throughout her journey in sustainability. Her answer:

“I think every organization needs disruptors. Be willing to fight. Keep fighting the fight.”

After listening to the guest lecture as students ourselves, we could not help but be inspired to keep fighting for sustainability. Paula came from a  brand management background before her time in sustainability, showing that everyone can make a career switch to continue doing good for the planet. Burt’s Bees and Clorox have the power to change the business world through key innovations to preserve nature and the things we hold dear to our hearts. I think all the students in MBA 582 will now take those sentiments into their careers and be the disruptors for the world.