Learnings from our responsible sourcing partners in Ghana

By Niki King, Head of Sustainability, and Shanique Bonelli-Moore, Chief Diversity and Social Impact Officer   

Since joining Clorox, we’ve both embraced our company purpose to champion people to be well and thrive every single day. But what would it mean to see it come to life, intersecting with our professional passions? After all, the “S” in our ESG approach represents a multifaceted commitment to social impact and responsible sourcing —  efforts that sit at the crossroads of our teams. To find out, we traveled to Ghana, in West Africa, to immerse ourselves in the heart of our responsible sourcing work.   

In Tamale, located in the northern region of the country, we learned about Clorox’s partnerships with the Global Shea Alliance and three of our most strategic shea and beeswax ingredient suppliers. Rooted in our mutual dedication to sustainability, biodiversity, responsible sourcing and the empowerment of vulnerable populations, these collaborations not only secure a steady supply of high-quality shea and beeswax for our various Burt’s Bees products, but they also cultivate resilient, thriving communities where these raw materials are sourced. 

Throughout our visit we were awestruck by the fortitude and shared sense of community among the women who showed up, often with their children in tow, to learn about the crafts of beekeeping and collecting, processing, and preserving shea. From bustling shea processing centers to swarming beehives across six communities and facilities, we were able to get a glimpse into Clorox’s impact championing women-centered agriculture, economic empowerment and commerce. 

In the communities we visited, we witnessed one of our shea supplier’s most successful initiatives supported by Clorox: improved cook stoves. These stoves are essentially a zero-cost alternative to traditional three-stone stoves widely used throughout West Africa, made with locally available and sustainable materials such as cow pats, dried straw and termite sand.  

We accompanied a group of roughly 50 women to learn how to construct the improved stoves, joining the thousands of women trained since this program launched in 2016. Clorox was the first partner to begin training programs on improved stoves in Burkina Faso in 2017, have expanded into Ghana and have been jointly supporting ever since.

In addition to learning how to build the stoves, we were also taught how doing so helps mitigate environmental degradation and fight deforestation. Depending on the size of the stove, this alternative method can save up to 85% of wood, which in turn reduces the community’s carbon footprint. The improved rocket stoves are not only more efficient and safer to use in homes with children, but they reduce smoke inhalation and save the women time and money they would otherwise spend collecting or purchasing the firewood  in their communities.

We also visited several communities where one of our suppliers sources shea kernels (the same used to make shea butter for our Burt’s Bees products) directly from the women who collect and process them.  

We saw firsthand how this partner works with women’s groups that sell shea kernels in a traceable and transparent way. They’re trained on shea parkland management practices aimed at improving biodiversity and the health of shea trees year-round. We were also able to see one of the last shea kernel purchases of this year’s season, where roughly 30 women gathered to weigh and sell the kernels they had collected, parboiled, cracked and dried. This entire purchase was a premium paid to the women’s group since they had already fulfilled their volume projections for the season. Later in the week we visited another supplier’s shea butter processing center, which had been constructed with funding from Clorox. Ownership of the center was later transferred to the women’s group in 2019. There we learned how kernels are dried, milled and kneaded by hand to create handcrafted shea butter that goes into Burt’s Bees products.  

This work further solidifies the commercial value of shea and strengthens the economic empowerment of these women and their roles as Clorox business partners.   

Niki King and Shanique Bonelli-Moore with Shannon Hess, Burt’s Bees director of responsible sourcing, visiting hives and processing centers managed by the SheKeeper program. 

Finally, it was time to suit up to visit the hives and processing centers managed by the SheKeeper program. As a partnership among the U.S. Agency for International Development, Partnership for Natural Ingredients, Burt’s Bees and three strategic ingredient suppliers, the program supports a resilient supply chain through improved biodiversity, women’s and children’s empowerment, and the protection of human rights. 

Beekeeping is a crucial link in the supply chain for many of the ingredients used by Burt’s Bees. Though the craft is almost exclusively practiced by men around the world, SheKeeper puts women at the center, training them how manage the hives as well as how to collect and sell the honeycomb. Backed by a three-year, $2 million investment, this initiative has upgraded shea processing facilities, constructed and distributed 6,200 beehives, trained over 900 women in Ghanaian shea communities in beekeeping, and created over 1,200 new farmer jobs to date. 

The SheKeepers we spoke with all had one thing in common: a profound appreciation for the financial security and sense of autonomy gained from being a part of the beekeeping community. 

As we reflect on this incredible journey around Tamale, we’re reminded that investments like these extend beyond Clorox’s corporate citizenship — they also happen to be successful business choices that help us deliver products people love. The experience left us with an exciting (if not daunting) question: How do we amplify and scale the learnings of these partnerships to other areas of our business?  

With that important challenge in mind, we returned to the U.S. feeling immensely proud to be a part of a company responsible for life-changing work that’s actively shaping a positive and lasting impact. It’s a testament to the values that define our company. 

Learn more about Clorox’s ESG goals here and IDEA strategy here. Want to make a positive impact on the world? Learn about Clorox careers here.