Dr. Bronner's Magic Soaps
A bottle of Dr. Bronner's Castille Soap
Dr. Bronner's Magic Soaps is an American producer of organic soap and personal care products headquartered in Escondido, California. The company was founded in the late 1940s by Emanuel Bronner and continues to be run by members of the Bronner family. The company's 2017 annual revenue was $120 million.
Dr. Bronner's Magic Soaps was founded by Emanuel Heilbronner, an immigrant soap-maker (not a physician) from Germany who dropped the “Heil” from his name because of its associations with Hitler. After escaping from a mental institution in 1945, he went into business.
Bronner was a fervent promulgator of his own syncretic spiritual ideology and originally distributed the soap to those who attended lectures on his 'All One' philosophy, but soon became convinced that attendees were seeking soap rather than spiritual enlightenment. After this realization, Bronner began to print key tenets of his teachings on the soap bottles as a way to proselytize. The labels still includes lengthy diatribes on the unity of mankind and the need to "unite spaceship earth". In 2006, a documentary film entitled Dr. Bronner's Magic Soapbox was released, and in 2017 the company released a spoken word album of Emanuel Bronner's spiritual teachings.
For a period of time, Bronner ran the company as a tax-exempt religious organization but was found to be out of compliance with this designation and was levied with $1.3 million in back-taxes in 1985. When this occurred, Jim Bronner, Emanuel's son, began to work for the company and recapitalized it as a for-profit company in 1988.
In 1997, Jim Bronner's son David began working for the company, followed by his brother Michael in 2000. Michael Bronner assumed presidency of the company in 2015 and promoted his brother David Bronner to the position of CEO (or Cosmic Engagement Officer).
The major ingredients in Dr. Bronner's Magic Soaps products are organic and fair trade. The company has developed a number of fair trade and organic production systems in Ghana, Sri Lanka, Samoa, India, and Kenya through its sister LLC, Serendiworld.
Activism and philanthropy
Dr. Bronner's Magic Soaps has championed a number of causes related to drug policy reform, animal rights, genetically modified organisms and fair trade practices. The company has self-imposed caps on executive pay, with executive salaries not to exceed 5 times the wage of its lowest paid workers. Roughly a third of the company's profits are dedicated to charitable giving and activist causes annually.
In 2018, the company joined Patagonia, Inc. and the Rodale Institute in promoting the development of the Regenerative Organic Certification label, a more stringent certification than 'organic' that requires companies to utilize only ingredients that have been produced under conditions that foster workers' rights, animal welfare, and environmental sustainability. In 2008 the company sued competitors for falsely advertising cosmetic products as organic, and in 2014 ran a full-page ad in several publications criticizing the use of genetically modified organisms.In 2013 the company donated $1.8 million to the campaign to pass a proposition requiring the labeling of foods containing genetically modified organisms in Washington State.
In 2017, Dr. Bronner's Magic Soaps donated $600,000 to animal rights causes. Notably, the company purchased a boat for Sea Shepherd Conservation Society operations in Germany, the MV Emanuel Bronner.
CEO David Bronner is a critic of drug prohibition and an activist for the legalization of a number of psychoactive substances. In 2004 the company sued the Drug Enforcement Administration with the goal of changing rules regarding the importation of hemp oil. A federal judge ruled in favor of the plaintiffs. David Bronner has been arrested twice for civil disobedience protesting limitations on the domestic production of hemp. In 2004 he planted hemp seeds on the lawn of the Drug Enforcement Administration headquarters, and in 2012, he harvested hemp while locked in a metal cage in front of the White House In 2015 he was named Cannabis Activist of the Year by the Seattle Hempfest. Bronner is a member of the Board of Directors of the organization Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies, and at his behest the company has pledged to donate 5 million dollars to the organization between 2017-2022, principally for their work in support of the therapeutic use of MDMA for post-traumatic stress disorder.
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