Dr. Bronner’s: We are All-One or None! Dr. Bronner’s is a producer of natural body care products, including soaps, toothpaste, lip balms, and more. Founded by Emanuel Bronner in 1948, the products can be traced back to the soap-making tradition of the German-Jewish Bronner family that started manufacturing soap in Laupheim, Germany in 1858.
Emanuel Bronner was the third generation certified as a master soapmaker under the guild system of the time. In 1929, he brought his formulas for high-quality liquid and bar soaps to America, starting Dr. Bronner’s in its current form about two decades later. He used the labels on his ecological soaps to spread his message that we must unify across religious and ethnic divides or perish, including the frequent statement, “We are All-One or None!” Since then, the company has grown significantly, but still remains a family-run business. True to its history, Dr. Bronner’s prides itself on taking care of its employees and those who provide the materials for its products.
The company makes sustainable business practices a main component of all its work, not just in how it makes its products but in how it engages on policy. Its products are made with organic ingredients, are biodegradable, and are not tested on animals.
In addition, beginning in 2006, the company committed to sourcing 95% of its raw ingredients from certified fair trade projects, ensuring better wages and labor practices for the people who make their products. Some of these raw materials include fair trade and organic coconut oil from Serendipol in Sri Lanka and fair trade and organic palm oil from Serendipalm in Ghana, both “sister” companies that Dr. Bronner’s established and helps operate. Fair trade and organic olive oil comes largely from Canaan Fair Trade, a highly successful project based in Palestine.
Dr. Bronner’s is a benefit corporation, meaning it is legally obligated to include societal and environmental impacts in its business decisions, compared to typical for-profit companies which may be required to focus on profit above all else. The company is also a certified B Corp, working with ASBC member B Lab to measure their social and environmental impact against a rigorous benchmark.
Total compensation of their highest-paid employees and executives are capped at five times that of the lowest-paid position. Employees have a portion of their salary invested in retirement plans, and are eligible for a no-deductible health insurance plan for themselves and their families. Meanwhile, whatever profits Dr. Bronner’s does not reinvest into its business go towards advocacy work and charitable causes.
One of the issues Dr. Bronner’s currently focuses on is the labeling of genetically modified organisms (GMOs); the company has supported efforts to promote labeling foods made with GMOs and labels its own products GMO-free. In recent years, Dr. Bronner’s supported ballot initiatives in Washington and Oregon, both of which were narrowly defeated, with chemical companies and junk food manufacturers spending heavily to defeat them. Dr. Bronner’s is also heavily opposed to the Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act, also known as the DARK Act, so nicknamed because it would prevent states from enacting their own GMO labeling laws, further keeping consumers in the dark about the nature of the food they are eating.
Dr. Bronner’s other advocacy efforts include minimum wage legislation, sustainable agricultural, hemp legalization, and animal advocacy, with a special focus on ending cruel and unsustainable factory farming of animals. Above all, Dr. Bronner’s is a company that has made sustainability an integral part of their business, and has recognized that sometimes you need to get into the dirty business of politics in order to make the world a little cleaner.