The organic industry is full of passionate beliefs and independent thinking. So, it's a smooth fit for a company like Dr. Bronner's. The body care manufacturer celebrates 60 years of doing business in the United States this year, though its fiercely held convictions are just as fresh today as they were when Dr. E.H. Bronner began making his all-vegetable soaps in 1947.
“We have a big responsibility as manufacturers to make sure there's a high degree of integrity, that there are standards that are meaningful, and that consumers aren't being misled,” said David Bronner, president. “It's not glamorous, but very necessary.”
The company was a vocal leader in getting the U.S. Department of Agriculture to reverse itself in 2005 after the agency announced it would no longer allow the certification and labeling of organic cosmetic and personal care products. More recently, the company took on California law enforcement over the arrest of a veteran punk rock drummer stopped in his car with a bottle of Dr. Bronner's hemp soap.
“We're just very fortunate to have been built on an activist philosophy,” said Bronner.
This activism is helping build business as well. This summer, a major goal will be realized when more than 95% of the raw material purchases come from fair trade contracts, including a first-of-its-kind agreement for organic olive oil from a Palestinian settlement in Israel.
“We're taking the original concept that applied to coffee and cocoa and applying it to our coconut oil supply chain, our palm oil supply chain — all our major oils,” said Bronner.
Also this year, the Sun Dog line of skin lotions and balms will be incorporated under the Dr. Bronner's label, and new products like pump soaps and shaving gels will be introduced. All will be USDA-certified organic using fair trade ingredients, and marketed with the inclusive philosophy espoused by the company's founder. All the while, Dr. Bronner's intends to remain vigilant of any attempts to dilute the organic nonfood standards it fought so hard to secure.
“I feel that's a real important battle to be fought, to make sure that organic doesn't degenerate and go the way of ‘natural,’” Bronner said.