Whether it’s Whole Foods or a local co-op, Dr. Bronner’s is a familiar sight on the shelves at sustainably-minded retailers. The family-owned company is the top-selling brand of natural soaps in North America, and in addition to making many multifunctional products, the leadership team is also committed to animal advocacy.
This year alone, the company donated more than $150,000 to animal organizations, including Compassion Over Killing, The Humane Society of the United States, The Humane League, Mercy for Animals, Factory Farming Awareness Coalition, Strongest Hearts, Our Hen House, and Poplar Springs and Vine Sanctuaries.
David Bronner, CEO, has been an ethical vegan for nearly 20 years, and most of the company’s products (which include soaps, shaving gels, hair care, hand sanitizers and much more) are vegan certified. “I became vegan in 1996 after being confronted by vegetarians in a squat I was sharing in Amsterdam, in the midst of intense psychedelic experiences that awakened me spiritually and politically in many ways,” Bronner explains.
“Basically I came to believe that we all hold the knives that kill the food we eat, whether animal or plant, through the choices we make … and I realized while I could shut down my conscience and cut the neck of a cow, why not leave the cow alone and just eat plants. I’ve lived a vegan life since then.”
Dr. Bronner’s is all about fighting for worthy causes. “We see our company as a social engine, a vehicle for advancing and promoting positive change in the world,” says Bronner.
It’s this philosophy that had led the company to support so many different animal advocacy organizations. This is its second year of core commitment to the cause.
So how does the Dr. Bronner’s team choose which organizations to support? It’s based on several factors, says Bronner, in part on the knowledge of the team itself, which is immersed in the advocacy world.
“Myself and our public affairs director pay close attention to various organizing efforts and campaigns, and we regularly meet with various advocates and organizers to learn about their work,” he explains. “We like to support organizations and efforts that are smart, strategic, nimble, and passionate — and ideally ones that are filling a void by taking an approach or tackling a specific angle that other groups (especially better funded groups) aren’t. We choose to work with those who fight to win and who ultimately, do win. It is important for us to build relationships with organizations and the people within them – it’s not just about writing checks. We have an affinity for working with the grassroots (like Compassion Over Killing and The Humane League), those taking direct action (like Sea Shepherd), and also those doing practical work saving animals (like Poplar Spring and VINE Sanctuaries) and those changing policy and culture (like The Humane Society of the US and Compassion in World Farming) — among these examples one commonality is effectiveness (ie. winning).”
For vegans, the company offers lots of product options, and thanks to its philanthropic efforts, each purchase makes an even bigger impact. As far as specific items, Bronner recommends the liquid and bar soaps, made with extra virgin coconut, jojoba, hemp, and pure essential oils.
“No synthetic foaming agents, thickeners or preservatives are used. You can use these soaps to clean your hands, body, your house, your pets and so much more. And like all our products they are made with organic and fair trade ingredients,” he adds.
They also make a culinary coconut oil, and a new Dr. Bronner’s All-One Toothpaste that’s made with 70% organic ingredients.
All in all, Dr. Bronner’s is a company that prides itself on its ethics and advocacy for “Spaceship Earth.” The team has even released a “Guide to Eating with a Conscience” which serves to educate people about why plant-based diets are healthier, more environmentally sustainable, and better for social justice.
“The reasons to advocate for a meat-free diet and to protect non-human animals are many, spanning animal welfare, the environment, health and other concerns,” Bronner adds. “This is important to us because improving the treatment of animals and stopping the cruel and needless suffering and death of billions of animals a year is a essential to creating a more just, compassionate and peaceful world.”