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Dr. Bronner’s: A Proud History
Dr. Bronner’s was founded in 1948 by Emanuel Bronner, a third- generation master soap-maker from a German-Jewish soap-making family. He used the labels on his superb ecological soaps to spread his message that we must realize our unity across religious & ethnic divides or perish: “We are All-One or None!”
Still family-owned and run, Dr. Bronner’s honors its founder’s vision by continuing to make socially & environmentally responsible products of the highest quality, and by dedicating their profits to help make a better world. We can only truly prosper if we contribute to the prosperity of all Emanuel Bronner believed that a company has a responsibility to “Share the profits with the workers and the earth from which you made it!”
His son, Ralph, called this approach “Constructive Capitalism” and they practice it in every aspect of their business, from the products they make, throughout their supply chains, to their dedicated activism and charitable giving, to their relationships with employees, customers and suppliers. It’s important to them that their products have a real and positive impact on the people and communities worldwide that make them.
Business As A Force For Good: Why Dr. Bronner’s Is A Benefit Corporation
In July of 2015, Dr. Bronner’s became a Benefit Corporation with the State of California. A Benefit Corporation is a for-profit corporation that has positive impact on society and the environment according to legally defined goals. These goals are spelled out in their articles of incorporation and assessed against a 3rd-party standard (Dr. Bronner’s is assessed under the B Corp standard by B Lab).
A Benefit Corporation can also identify specific public benefits as additional purposes. Here are theirs:
- Expand public awareness of environmental and social issues.
- Make products and source ingredients that are fair trade certified and USDA certified organic whenever possible
- Promote equitable compensation: pay executives no more than five times the total compensation paid to fully-vested, lowest paid employees
Bronner’s growth and their pursuit of public benefit are advanced by their environmental and social activism. To that end, their owners and officers cannot be sued for pursuing such activism. They’re also a certified B Corp. Certified B Corps are for-profit companies certified by the nonprofit B Lab to meet rigorous standards of social and environmental performance, accountability, and transparency. B Corp Certification provides a useful third-party measurement tool to meet their performance assessment and transparency requirements as a Benefit Corporation. The B Impact Assessment model used by B Lab gives the company an objective standard to track their improvements over time. As a Certified B Corp, they are now in a more formal alliance with other companies who are committed to modelling ethical and progressive approaches to business.
Soap-Making the Dr. Bronner’s Way:
Soaps have been made for millennia. Alongside making fire and cooking food, turning oils and fats into soap is one of the oldest and simplest chemical reactions known to humankind. It is believed that the first soaps were accidentally made by fat dripping into the ashes of cooking fires. Soap is made by saponifying a fat or oil with an alkali. A fat or oil is a triglyceride, which means that three fatty acids of various carbon lengths are attached to a glycerin backbone. The alkali is either sodium hydroxide (lye) for bars or potassium hydroxide (potash) for liquids. Alkali is made by running electricity through salt water. The saponification process is a simple one-step reaction with no waste generated: the glycerin is split off from the fatty acids, and the fatty acids combine with the sodium or potassium to form soap, while the hydroxide forms water. The result is soap, glycerin and water (no alkali remains in their soaps).
Not Your Traditional Soap Making Company
Unlike most commercial soapmakers, who distill the glycerin out of their soaps to sell separately, Dr. Bronner’s retains it in their soaps for its superb moisturizing qualities. They super-fat their bar soaps for a milder, smoother lather and use natural vitamin E from sunflower seeds and citric acid from fermented tapioca to protect freshness. They do not add any chelating agents, dyes, whiteners, or synthetic fragrances, only the purest certified organic essential oils.
Quality soap making means choosing the right proportions of the right oils. Coconut oil is very high lathering but can be drying. Olive oil gives a soft and luxuriant lather but in small amounts. By using both coconut and olive oils in the right ratio, Dr. Bronner’s soaps offer the best of both worlds: high lather that’s soft on the skin. Their soaps also contain hemp and jojoba oils, which mirror the natural oils in the skin’s sebum, leaving skin feeling smooth after the soaps are washed away. Dr. Bronner liquid soaps are three times more concentrated than most liquid soaps on the market, which means more soap per bottle and less waste in packaging materials.
Blazing the Trail for Organics
Fighting for organic integrity in body care Beginning in the 1940s, the world was flooded with cheaply made synthetic products and ingredients, from pesticides and food additives to detergents and plastics, all created in the laboratory largely from non-renewable petroleum. It was hailed as “Better Living Through Chemistry”, but unintended consequences included pollution of the air and water, deterioration of soil tilth and health, unhealthy and over-processed foods, and synthetic ingredients in personal care products – more than a few with significant toxicity issues. In response, the organic movement over the last few decades has rejected the intensive synthetic inputs and processes used in conventional agriculture and food processing, recognizing that traditional methods and materials result in better soil and improved human and environmental health.
Organic integrity in body care means an organic product is made from certified organic ingredients in compliance with the USDA National Organic Program (NOP), the same program that certifies organic foods. Real organic personal care does not use synthetic preservatives that can irritate skin. Natural, unrefined oils and waxes are used as emollients and moisturizers, instead of hydrogenated oils and synthetic silicones. Traditional natural soaps are used in hand and body washes, instead of modern synthetic surfactants made in part from petrochemicals.
A True Pioneer in the Organic Soap Industry
Dr. Bronner’s is fighting for a marketplace where consumers are not misled into purchasing bogus synthetic-schlock products masquerading as real certified organic personal care. They are in a better place now than they were ten years ago, when all kinds of synthetic products were making organic claims, even in health food stores and cooperatives. Now, all organic body care products sold in the natural marketplace, must be certified to comply with established organic standards. Still, there are no legal regulations to prevent a body care product from being inaccurately labelled as organic. While very strict standards are enforced by the USDA for organic food products, there are no legally binding regulations for body care products. Taking advantage of this loophole, some companies continue to use “organic” or “organics” in their brand names in order to inflate the consumers’ perception of their organic content, even when they are certified at a much lower level and/or do not include anything substantially organic.