Dr Bronner’s : natural soaps and much more… a brand with values that make a difference…

Olivier Vinot, Dr. Bronner’s France Managing Director | August 2020

Your main focus seems to be around soaps, in line with a more minimalistic approach to cosmetics (« less is more ») …. but why is your soap different?


Dr Bronner’s :

The beauty of Dr. Bronner’s Pure-Castile soap is its simplicity. It is this simplicity that makes the soap so versatile as it is an extremely simple, plant-based formula. And our soap is a true soap, meaning the result of oils reacting with an alkali to undergo saponification, unlike many “body wash” products on the market that are in fact detergents. The art of creating the perfect Castile soap lies in the choice and balance of oils as well as other processing methods. When you have the perfect Castile soap, it is the most versatile cleaning agent possible.

Dr. Bronner’s employees and the farming communities we work with help us make the best soap. Without them, we would not be able to take plant-based ingredients to create a safe, effective, highly-concentrated, multi-use formula that can take on nearly every cleaning task. All of our major raw ingredients are organic certified and fair trade certified. There is nothing like a well-crafted soap made from organic certified and fair trade certified coconut, olive and hemp oils, without any synthetic foaming agents, preservatives or surfactants. And the Bronner family has had over 160 years of soapmaking experience to perfect the formula.

When the company founder, Emanuel Bronner, who was a third generation soap maker, started making Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soap in 1948, most people were not interested in a simple, ecological soap, but rather wanted detergents made with all kinds of “new and improved” chemicals. It wasn’t until about 20 years later with the rise of the environmental movement in the US that people were looking for natural body care products, so the company is considered a pioneer in the space since Emanuel had been making these products for such a long time. Dr. Bronner’s continued to innovate as a company and was the first body care manufacturer to obtain the USDA Organic Certified food standard in 2003, and then in 2007 became fair trade certified as well. As time goes on, more and more people are learning about the importance of organic body care. They are also becoming warier about using body care products with ingredients they cannot identify or pronounce. They are also investigating what the values are of the companies behind the products they purchase. Dr. Bronner’s is still a family business committed to honoring the vision of Emanuel, by continuing to make socially and environmentally responsible products of the highest quality, and by dedicating all profits not needed for business development to progressive causes and charities. Thus, our brand is more relevant than ever, and is growing more relevant year by year.


credit : Dr Bronner’s

Plastic packaging is one of the main challenges the cosmetic industry faces, internationally, as most companies are still using plastic bottles, even when selling certified organic products … You have come up with some innovative solutions concerning plastic recycling, tell us more about it…

Dr Bronner’s :

One of the biggest challenges Dr. Bronner’s faces in this regard is finding a packaging alternative to plastic.

Dr. Bronner’s exclusively uses 100% post-consumer recycled (PCR) polyethylene (PET) plastic bottles for all of our liquid and pump soaps. We’ve been using 100% PCR PET bottles, which are also recyclable, for more than ten years, long before this was common in the personal care industry.

By prioritizing use of PCR PET which can be recycled from used plastic bottles into new plastic bottles and products, we help conserve virgin resources, reduce waste sent to landfills, and capitalize on the energy already invested in making existing plastic products. Recycling one ton of PET containers saves 7.4 cubic yards of landfill space.

“Bottle-to-bottle” recycling, the recycling of plastic bottles into new bottles, is also uncommon. Most often, the plastic picked up for recycling on curbsides is “downcycled,” shipped to countries like China, where it’s used to create synthetic fabrics for carpets and clothes, then shipped back to the US and elsewhere for sale. Bottle-to-bottle recycling helps to close the loop and results in fewer greenhouse gas emissions. Approximately half of all our post-consumer recycled plastic bottles are made of a resin called CarbonLite, which is made from plastic sourced from curbside recycling pick-ups in California.


credit : Dr Bronner’s

We have some great partners who are investigating advances in packing innovations so that when a “better than plastic” option is available, we can utilize it. As we continue to minimize our impact, we are researching and trialing other materials, like recycled ocean plastic and bioplastics. Bio-plastics use renewable resources like plants and bacteria to create plastic that would otherwise be produced from petroleum. This technology is still in its early stages and doesn’t yet produce plastics that are resilient enough for our purposes. Also, before adopting bio-plastics, we would need assurance that the plants used in production were sustainably grown and not made from pesticide-intensive GMO-corn. As of now, turning plants into plastic remains more energy intensive than recycling used plastic. Still, we have great hope for the future of this potentially industry-changing innovation.

Your brand seems to be involved in a number of different causes, too, reaching way beyond the cosmetic sector… One of them is encouraging techniques of regenerative agriculture, why is this approach so important, in your opinion?

Dr Bronner’s :

Dr. Bronner’s has always been involved in some kind of advocacy to unite humanity, and for us, it is built into our company ethos to ensure the integrity of our supply chain is paramount considering our footprint. We recognize the importance of our small-scale farming partners using regenerative organic agricultural practices to grow the ingredients for our products. We ensure all the farmers and workers in our supply chains make a living wage and are able take care of their land and communities in a way that regenerates rural economies and promotes biodiverse farming ecosystems. This is done while increasing carbon and fertility in the soil, and avoiding unnecessary pollutants such as pesticides and herbicides from further poisoning fresh water and ocean ecosystems.

This year, we’ve focused on raising awareness of Regenerative Organic Agriculture through our global “Heal Earth!” campaign, which includes setting up a regenerative organic agriculture accreditation standard.

credit : Dr Bronner’s

Regenerative Organic Certified (ROC) is a holistic agriculture certification encompassing robust, high-bar standards for ensuring soil health and ecological land management, pasture-based animal welfare, and fairness for farmers and workers. It was created to model an ecological and ethical system for agricultural production that addresses the problems of factory farming, climate change, and economic injustice, locally and globally.

Along with Patagonia, the Rodale Institute, and others, Dr. Bronner’s has dedicated considerable time and resources since 2018 to create and utilize the Regenerative Organic Certification as an integrated, comprehensive program for the following reasons:

  • Regenerative Organic Certification brings the best soil health, animal welfare, and fair labor standards together under a single consumer facing certification, to ensure food, fiber, and raw materials are produced in a regenerative, fair, and humane way.  
  • Regenerative organic practices build soil carbon, make soil drought-proof, and mitigate the impacts of climate change because they help agriculture be more resilient to climate-related volatility in weather. At a global scale, regenerative agriculture could also be a major sink for atmospheric carbon and help to fight climate change, as part of an overall strategy of decarbonizing our economy as a primary goal.
  • Regenerative organic farming at home and abroad boosts farmer incomes and revitalizes rural economies, helping farmers escape the poverty trap and enables them to stay on their land rather than work in urban slums or on corporate plantations. 

Dr. Bronner’s already partners with certified organic and certified fair trade projects to source all of our major raw ingredients, including olive oil from Palestine and Israel, coconut oil from Sri Lanka, peppermint oil from India, and palm oil from Ghana. We are committed to certifying all of our soap products and their main raw ingredients including coconut, olive, palm kernel and mint oils (95% of the brand’s agricultural volume by weight) to the new Regenerative Organic Certified standard.

credit : Dr Bronner’s

We are all facing challenging times at the moment (COVID-19, Social injustice, racism, climate change…) what would be the company’s message for everyone… some ideas, tips and tricks? Anything that could help everyone make a change… on their own level.

Dr Bronner’s :

Most importantly we all need to stay informed and stay active, including educating one another on what is possible. When we understand more of what experts and scientists have identified as necessary to address these crises, we can better understand the impact of decision makers, both good and bad, both in the private sector and the public sector. This is crucial in empowering ourselves and organizations to further the necessary dialogue for taking the most effective action as a society.

There is so much good to be done, so much positive change we can make in the world by using our voices and getting involved in progressive causes. This is key to staying optimistic in overcoming these challenges collectively, which are all linked in one way or another, as we are all connected. At times it can seem overwhelming for those who are looking to take action in their own lives. We have small choices we can make every day that can amount to a large impact, like making positive, conscious choices when it comes to food, such as eating less meat, using less plastic and fossil fuel energy, and by supporting companies who have integrity with the products we consume every day.

We deeply respect and appreciate the trust our customers put in us and our products. We encourage all to remember that there is more that unites us than divides us and to use kindness whenever possible. All-One!

credit : Dr Bronner’s

Dr Bronner’s website


To read the equivalent article in french :

Dr. Bronner’s : des savons naturels différents…et une marque avec des valeurs qui font la différence


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