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Dr Bronner’s: the activist's beauty brand

The Ecologist

6th April, 2011

Not only are its own products Fairtrade and organic, beauty pioneer Dr Bronner’s is taking on big business to get to the truth about how organic their ranges really are

There’s Fairtrade and organic, and then there’s Dr Bronner’s; the American brand that combines the two with a healthy dose of campaigning spirit. Currently the USA’s top selling organic beauty range, its activist roots date back over half a century to 1948, when Dr Emmanuel Bronner, the only member of the Heilbronner soap-making dynasty to survive the holocaust, took to the road to spread his message of peace and reconciliation using his peppermint liquid soap as a draw to bring the crowds in. 60 years later, the brand is still going strong and has turned its attention to easing the plight of disadvantaged people all over the world, in addition to taking on ‘organic cheaters’ in the USA. And it isn’t just the campaigning that makes Dr Bronner’s stand out. Their biodegradable, hemp and olive oil soaps are so good, even rapper Eminem raves about them.

‘Our mission now is to take his ideals [Emmanuel Bronner’s] and take them to the next level, then apply them to reality,’ says Michael Bronner, Vice President of Dr Bronner’s and grandson of Emmanuel. ‘We’ve had some major victories.’ Among them is the insistence by Whole Foods, an American organic grocery chain, that all beauty products labelled organic on their shelves meet the USDA standard of being at least 95 percent organic – a development that followed Dr Bronner’s successful lawsuit filed against companies who falsely describe their products as organic. Dr Bronner’s own products are both organic and Fairtrade, and the company also operates a charity scheme which sees between 30 and 70 percent of post-tax income go to good causes including War Child in the UK and the San Diego Girls and Boys Club in the USA. So does Dr Bronner’s see itself as an activist company that happens to be good at beauty or a beauty brand that’s good at campaigning? According to Michael, it depends who you ask. ‘We’re a family company so if you ask my brother, he’ll say an activist company that sells soap, whereas I spend more time with the beauty products, so I’d put that first.’ Either way, Dr Bronner’s is the kind of beauty company we need to see more of.

Dr Bronner’s 18-in-1 Pure Hemp Castile Soap, £4.99, and more, are available at Liberty, selected branches of Waitrose, Planet Organic and Whole Foods

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