Sustainability Spotlight: Dr. Bronner’s

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It doesn’t feel like you can make much of a difference in the world with soap, yet if you have spent any time in a health food store, you may have felt drawn to the Dr. Bronner’s brand. The bright bottles and bars are filled with the words many of us want more of in our live, such as fair trade, organic and family. The ingredients are proudly displayed right on the bottle. We may read the ingredients on our labels in the supermarket, but it is a slow growing movement that we are becoming more aware of what goes on our body rather than just what goes into our bodies. Dr. Bronner’s even adheres to the same organic standards as food (but it is probably best not to consume it).

The History

Dr. Bronner’s was founded in 1948, but the founder, Emanuel Bronner was already a third-generation master soapmaker (the sommeliers of soapmaking). In 1948, his ecological soaps were message driven, attempting to encourage the unification across religious and ethnic divides, which is as pertinent today as it was in the aftermath of World War II. His parents and extended family were killed in Nazi death camps, but rather than becoming embittered, Emanuel spent years spreading what he called The Peace Plan. His Moral ABC? If not for me, who am I? Nobody! Yet, if I’m only for me, what am I? Nothing! If not now, when? Mind blown, Dr. Bronner. Mind Blown. (He was not an “official” doctor by the way.) Still family owned, the mission of “We are All One or None!” sounds like the kind of mantra our divided world needs to get behind.

Staying Consistent

While it is much easier to have a shiny happy mission than it is to implement it, this brand has been remarkably consistent with Dr. Bronner’s original desire to, “Share the profits with the workers and the earth from which you made it!” What they call constructive capitalism has been practiced in every aspect of their business. They want to make a difference and it is infused in everything they do, from ensuring that executives only get a maximum of five times the pay of the lowest paid employees to expanding public awareness of environmental issues.

Benefit Corporation

fair_trade In July 2015, Dr. Bronner’s became a Benefit Corporation, which is a for-profit corporation that makes a positive impact on society and the environment. Dr. Bronner’s recognizes the impact of fair trade to lift and develop farms and communities. They have invested millions into ensuring that over tens of thousands of people are impacted directly. They have a series of principles that infuse their labour practices, from paying farmers fair and stable prices that guarantee a profit to paying a 10% premium to fund community development projects.


The bottles giving the whole story is the first clue that this company has nothing to hide. You can easily look up where they get each of their ingredients. For example, they use palm oil to give the bars their hardness while balancing out other ingredients that melt, like coconut oil. However, they did not want to contribute to the deforestation and endangerment of habitats often associated with palm oil. Dr. Bronner’s found partners in Ghana and recruited smallholder farmers for conversion to organic practices. Serendipalm is now a respected fair trade, organic palm oil project that now is even building a Montessori school in Ghana.


While many brands have partially recyclable plastic, Dr. Bronner’s is 100% PET plastic bottles. They participate in bottle to bottle recycling and as a company they are committed to reducing the amount of waste they send to a landfill to one dumpster a month. soap_packaging On their website, they have an environmental footprint summary, which reviews the net packaging, energy, water consumption and greenhouse gas emissions that the company as a whole generates.

The Six Principles And Fighting Back

The six principles that guide the employees of Dr. Bronner’s could truly be a blueprint for any socially conscious business: Work hard. Grow. Do right by customers. Treat employees like family. Be fair to suppliers. Treat the earth like home. Give and give! David Bronner, the grandson of Emanuel, now runs the company and is seen as similar to his rebellious grandfather, leading the hemp industry in a lawsuit against the government and becoming an activist around pesticides and genetically modified crops. Sometimes it takes a little controversy to make a difference.

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About The Author

Courtney Sunday is a writer, health coach and mama who is most proud of the stamps in her passport, her fierce loyalty and her ability to cook in any sized kitchen. Courtney's first book, published in May 2018, is entitled "Mindfulness For PMS, Hangovers And Other Real World Situations." Find out more about her and her book at

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