Case | HBS Case Collection | February 2010

Burt's Bees: Balancing Growth and Sustainability (Multimedia)

by Christopher Marquis

Abstract

The case examines sustainability initiatives at Burt's Bees, with video segments that detail the company's history, leadership, and implementation of ambitious 2020 sustainability goals. The company traces its roots to 1984, when Roxanne Quinby and Burt Schavitz teamed up selling beeswax candles at craft fairs, and today offers a range of natural skin, hair care, and bath products. The case is set at a crossroads for Burt's Bees, two years after its acquisition by the Clorox Company. Despite moving miles and decades away from its roots in rural Maine. Burt's wants to remain true to the morals and mission that inspired its humble founders. Key elements of the company's culture include a commitment to natural products and a belief in sustainable, earth-friendly practices. But an important question remains: can Burt's Bees continue to be a leader in social environmental innovation, while also sharpening its focus on growth and profitability as a part of a public company with fiduciary responsibility to its shareholders? The case highlights the fundamental tension for companies and their leaders to deliver on the "Triple Bottom Line" of environmental, social and financial performance. First, it examines Burt's Bees' sustainability journey, and in particular the important element of CSR, as essentially a non market strategy; committed companies can set industry standards to corporate acquisitions and how Burt's can continue to pursue its social and environmental endeavors while growing as its own unit and within the larger parent company, Clorox.

Keywords: Balance and Stability; Leadership; Problems and Challenges; Business or Company Management; Growth Management; Organizational Culture; Corporate Social Responsibility and Impact; Environmental Sustainability; Mergers and Acquisitions; Social Enterprise; Organizational Change and Adaptation; Ethics;

Citation:

Marquis, Christopher. "Burt's Bees: Balancing Growth and Sustainability (Multimedia)." Harvard Business School Video Case 410-704, February 2010.