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Fearless Brands: Dr. Bronner's and the Purpose-Driven Company

Fearless Brands is a column dedicated to identifying and celebrating brands that are taking a stand, challenging the status quo, and working to build a better future. In other words, brands acting fearlessly. This is not a sponsored column, and brands do not pay to appear here. Do you know a fearless brand? Send submissions to

Emanuel Bronner was a traveling philosopher and master soapmaker who became a businessman somewhat by accident. A third-generation Jewish soapmaker who fled from Nazi Germany to Milwaukie, WI, in 1929, he consulted for American soap companies and traveled from state to state preaching a solution for world peace known as the Moral ABC, passing out free bottles of soap to the crowds.

Somewhere along the way, he realized that his soaps were a bigger draw than his words, so he began printing messages from the Moral ABC on the labels and selling them. Thus Dr. Bronner's Magic Soaps was born.

Who They Are

Dr. Bronner's sells certified organic and fair-trade liquid soaps, lotions, and personal care products. If you haven’t tried them, you’re missing out.

Why They’re Fearless

Dr. Bronner's is deeply committed to their mission and doing things their own way, making them one of the most fearless brands around. Let’s count the ways:

  1. Independently owned. In contrast to many so-called progressive brands - Burt’s Bees (owned by Clorox) and Tom’s of Maine (owned by Colgate-Palmolive) come to mind - Dr. Bronner's is still independently owned by the Bronner family, even though they’ve had multiple offers to sell out.
  2. Fair labor practices. In addition to offering generous benefits, the highest paid worker at Dr. Bronner's makes no more than five times the salary of the lowest paid worker. That means the CEO makes about $200,000 per year.
  3. Sustainable supply chains. It’s not enough to have good practices internally. Dr. Bronner's uses only sustainable, organic, and fair-trade ingredients, and it spreads these standards to its supply chains. They’re so commited to their mission that when they couldn’t find any certified organic and fair-trade farms for some of their ingredients, they started their.
  4. Progressive activism. The company doesn’t shy away from publicly advocating for a better future. Industrial hemp, GMO labeling, organic and fair-trade standards, and helping felons successfully reenter society are among the causes that Dr. Bronner's has taken up.

The Lesson for Brands

Two words - possibility and integrity. Through a relentless commitment to upholding their mission, Dr. Bronner's demonstrates what is possible when brands refuse to compromise their integrity. And just what is possible? 

Happier employees (both theirs and those of their suppliers), a better environment, healthy human beings, and even strong profits - Dr. Bronner's raked in about $50 million in revenue last year and continues to grow.

The larger possibility presented by Dr. Bronner’s, however, is for business to reimagine its own raison d’être and exist for something more than growth, profit, expansion, and eventual exit strategies.

Dr. Bronner’s is a purpose-driven company. and the fact that it sells soap seems almost an accident. Unlike the vast majority of even the most progressive brands, Dr. Bronner’s doesn’t exist purely to sell soap. The soap, instead, becomes a vehicle for a higher purpose - to promote peace, love, and sustainability on Spaceship Earth.

- Robin Cangie


Image: Dr. Bronner's Magic Soaps

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