We celebrate, we mourn, we heal, we grow. We reach toward each other, find ways to carry on, to begin again. It’s why we’re here: to find peace and wholeness despite what’s lost, to use our gifts in service to each other and this beloved earth we share, to see ourselves in one another, to weave our stories into one.
In 2010, on a visit to Heilbronn, Germany, I’m looking through the window of our old soap factory—the factory our family owned before the Nazis seized it—when I hear shouting in German. Thankfully, after I stammer a response in English, the young German—Nicki—invites me inside, into what is now his family’s metal foundry.
A minute later we’re standing where so much of our family’s story unfolded—and bolted there, in the middle of the factory floor, is the original soap mill my great grandparents used before the factory was taken from them—before they lost their lives in the concentration camps—before my grandfather emigrated to America, where he eventually rose up out of poverty and imprisonment in an asylum to begin a new story—the story we carry on today at our Vista, California headquarters.
Woven through that story are so many others that helped connect me to a past my grandfather had largely failed to tell us, focused as he was on his All-One vision. We had been left with few threads to follow back to our family history before WWII, when his grandfather had started the first family soap factory in the basement of the family home in Laupheim in 1858, or when his father relocated to the nearby town of Heilbronn 40 years later to open a second soap factory. And so I am grateful for these seemingly random, fortuitous moments that have brought pieces of our family history back to us.
Like this moment, in 2017: I’m visiting Laupheim to give a few presentations on our family history, including one to the local historical society at the Jewish cemetery where my grandfather’s grandparents are buried, when an audience member comes up to me. She tells me she is the current owner of our ancestral home, which she had planned to tear down to build condominiums, but moved by our story, she offers to sell the property back to us at cost.
Another moment, this one in 2016: A woman recognizes us in the local German newspaper and invites us to her home, where we find ourselves sitting around our great grandparents’ table, saved from the Nazis by their devoted Catholic housekeeper, Agathe. Understanding that their future was in peril, our great grandparents had entrusted their furniture and valuables to Agathe, who faithfully returned all to our family after the war.
Then there is the moment when all of that history comes full circle, when our entire family gathers for a reunion in Laupheim, at our newly purchased ancestral home. Our grandparents’ home is finally back in the family again, and the town that had once forcibly, shamefully handed all Jewish inhabitants over to the Nazis during WWII has welcomed us back with open arms and a marching band.
And one more beautiful surprise: We’re celebrating the holidays with our Dr. Bronner’s family here in Vista when who should walk in, dressed as Santa Claus, but our dear friend Nicki Frank. He has come to return our family’s soap mill, which had remained in the old Heilbronn factory all these many years.
One day this old mill will greet visitors to our factory, telling the story of our family, but also—most importantly—reminding us of a larger story, our shared story. That through our loss and pain, we find deeper connection—to each other, to ourselves—and that healing comes when we begin to realize that we are utterly and inseparably bound to one another. In the words of my grandfather, founder of Dr. Bronner’s: “We are All-One or None! All-One!” —Mike Bronner
Ignore the media hype! Transformation is happening! Beautiful people doing beautiful things – getting more present, opening our hearts to each other and our sacred earth in All-One-Love!
The thousands of my granddad’s words written on our soap labels come down to this: We must take responsibility for our own lives while living a life of service to others, for we are all children of the same divine source, sisters and brothers sharing one precious planet.
For 70 years, we’ve viewed our company as an opportunity to live my granddad’s vision. As the fighting and uniting soap company, we work hard to raise our personal standards while also pushing for social policies and environmental standards that improve the lives of all human and other beings, near and far.
In 2018, we received an abundance of results and rewards for our efforts that we’re excited to share: implementing regenerative organic agriculture, achieving 100% renewable power and working toward zero waste in our U.S. factory, launching an Employee Giving Program and collaborating in disaster relief with our natural product allies through the Grassroots Aid Partnership, and becoming the world’s third-highest-ranking B Corp.
After years of fighting to expose the agrochemical industry’s deceitful and malicious practices, we applauded the August court ruling that affirmed that glyphosate, the herbicide in Roundup, causes cancer, and declared Monsanto liable for $289 million in retribution
It took nearly twenty years of relentless activism, but American farmers are finally free to grow hemp and supply its oil for our soaps. With passage of the 2018 Farm Bill, the cannabis plant is on its way to being liberated to serve its highest potential—not just industrial, but medical and spiritual.
In the UK, the suffering of a young boy and his lifesaving cannabis-derived oil treatments created a nationwide call that successfully pressured Parliament to allow access to medical cannabis to all in need of its healing benefits.
These are steps in a revolution that will make plant medicines more widely available, bringing us more healing of body and soul. From veterans to prisoners, these sacred allies can help hurting people process trauma, and in the process help heal Spaceship Earth.
Despite the harm and distractions of our current administration’s policies, I believe we’re on the cusp of real change. May we keep developing our individual potential, humbling ourselves within the majesty of creation, opening our hearts to each other in compassion, understanding, and appreciation. All-One-Love! – David Bronner
The All-One! spirit of Dr. Bronner’s is rooted in the love and generosity of our employees, so this year we empowered staff to direct $20,000 of our charitable giving to the causes nearest and dearest to their hearts.
This year, as part of Dr. Bronner’s newly launched Employee Giving Program, employees each received $100 to donate to one of five charities nominated by and advocated for by staff. Together, their generosity of spirit raised $20,000 in support of tribal sovereignty of Native communities, those who have lost loved ones to suicide, young women in underserved communities, organ donation, and the fight against slavery in all its heart-sickening forms.
At the program’s launch event, Sarah Samuel shared the moment when International Justice Mission—which drew the most employee donations—first caught her heart:
“Once upon a time I thought I knew what it meant to feel deeply about an issue. But it wasn’t until I became a mom, in those late hours rocking my baby, that I learned what deeply really feels like.
By the light of my phone, I came across a story about forced-labor brick kilns, and how children born into that circumstance do hard labor all day and night. They have no childhood. They have no hope.
What affected me even more than the story was a picture of a little girl only a few years older than the baby in my arms. I looked at that little girl, and her eyes looked like my baby’s eyes.
In that moment, she was my child, and I wept for her as I held my child, safely, in my arms. And I wept for her parents, because I know I would do anything to protect my daughter and give her a happy life. I imagined the torment her parents must feel every day. The only difference between them and me is that I was fortunate to be born in a place where I don’t have to live with the risk of being exploited.
I actively donate to International Justice Mission because justice is what they do. They fight to free those who are trapped, they help them become whole by working with victims and coordinating resources for years after their rescue. And they fight to fix the broken systems so that the cycle can be broken for good.”
To be resilient to crisis and unexpected disasters, a community must be able to marshal food and other basic resources at a moment’s notice. That’s part of the story of Grassroots Aid Partnership (GAP)—bringing together companies from the natural products industry to gather and share resources in times of need.
The bigger part of the story, though, is the soul-level connection that happens when you break down the traditional model of aid giver and recipient into a single community of human beings.
From fire relief in California to hurricane relief in Florida, GAP volunteers, supported by donations of food, funds, and other resources, create a space where stresses are relieved so that people can come together and heal through community.
“This is more than a food stop, where you just pick up your box of food and leave,” says George Siemon, CEO of Organic Valley. “It’s not just disaster relief. It’s tenderness to people who’ve been downtrodden for a while. We say, Come, cry on my shoulder. Sit and hang out with us and let’s have a good talk. This is about bringing the vulnerable some down-home energy, some hearth energy.”
“You get to experience people at their best,” says David Bronner. “Coming together in their moment of need, and in their moment of service.”
“It restores my faith in humanity,” adds Siemon. “We have a primary desire to serve other human beings, and in these trying situations, it gets permission to come out. All the differences evaporate.”
While GAP is creating a world where rebuilding is a healthy, soul-feeding, collective responsibility, Dr. Bronner’s believes that our responsibility to each other extends even beyond relief response, to work that addresses the literal roots of our crises.
David Bronner: “As natural disasters of all kinds become more frequent with advancing climate change, we will continue to support Grassroots Aid Partnership for on-the-ground relief efforts, and also work toward nurturing more responsible, regenerative organic farming models that, at global scale, can sequester atmospheric carbon in soil and mitigate the worst effects of climate change, along with decarbonizing our economy.”
Five days after his cannabis-based medicine was confiscated at Heathrow Airport, 12-year-old Billy Caldwell was back in the hospital with another life-threatening epileptic seizure—the first since starting the treatment the year before. The cannabis-based oil had been prescribed by one of Canada’s leading pediatric neurologists, and Billy and his mum, Charlotte, were on their way back from Canada with a new supply when it was confiscated by authorities. Dr. Bronner’s, at the request of medical cannabis advocates in the UK, had helped fund the trip, along with Billy’s six-month supply.
Though the medical cannabis treatments had reduced Billy’s seizures from near-constant to none, it took Charlotte’s desperate pleas, an outraged public, and pressure from the pro–medical cannabis lobby for Parliament to finally issue an emergency license allowing access to the medicine this little boy so desperately needed.
Since then, the UK has moved to reform the unfair laws that denied patients potentially lifesaving cannabis-based medicine. The UK still has a long way to go in making cannabis-based medicine widely accessible, but this is a start.
Charlotte: “What started as a journey to help my little boy has become something much bigger. The needs of my little boy turned out to be the needs of many more.”
The heart, soul, and mother hen. Walks softly and carries a big heart. –KH If you’re too hard on yourself, she will tell you, “That’s what erasers are for.” – AJ A force at home and at work. – BK We have the utmost respect and love for this marvelous lady. – M & KS Anytime we can push her buttons makes for a funny Trudy moment. Brilliant, reserved, a best friend. – AD Loving, caring, thoughtful. – KM We have experienced many different lands and cultures, and we treasure these memories with Trudy. – MB We were going to an orphanage in El Salvador and she gifted us with a generous donation of soap for the children. – ST From the first time I met Trudy I felt that she was a kindred spirit. – NC Regardless of what happens in life, she would never judge you. – DA Loyal, thoughtful, and seriousfunility (serious and fun). – JK The highs and lows of life are celebrated, mourned, acknowledged, and have bonded us in ways we never would have imagined in 1982. – AD We have shared the loss of our husbands, watched our children grow, aging ever so gracefully and keeping our friendship close to our hearts. – TG Amazingly kind and loving, she sees good in everything. – SP Favorite Trudy-isms: “You’re not fully dressed yet — you forgot to put on your smile.” “Leave the place better than you found it.” – L & MB
U.S. Right to Know—pushing for truth.
For years U.S. Right to Know has fought to bring to light factual information about the risks of agricultural practices that lace our foods with chemicals—risks that regulators and chemical companies have tried to keep hidden. They’ve exposed the health risks of pesticides and other chemicals, and the corporate actors working to hide those risks. They’ve worked with academics globally to report corporate wrongdoing, including Monsanto’s ghostwriting of studies and Coca-Cola’s “war” on the public health community. They’ve made public the thousands of lawsuits alleging that Monsanto’s Roundup and other herbicides cause cancer. And, says Research Director Carey Gillam: “We continue to grow and expand our work, thanks in part to the generous support of Dr. Bronner’s and other charitable groups.”
We are with you, USRTK, until we finish the fight.
Dr. Bronner’s soap comes from the earth and biodegrades back into it. Our mint’s fragrance is first breathed in by the farmer who grows it, then the factory worker who mixes our soap, and finally the person who uses it to shower, clean dishes, or wash the family dog. Our soap exists in a cycle, beginning in earth and returning, and along the way connecting grower to user, human to human, sister to brother—All-One!
Being mindful of this cycle helps us approach our soapmaking thoughtfully and with care, honoring and respecting the earth and all its inhabitants at each step.
The journey begins in Uttar Pradesh, India, where 1,200 independent farmers have formed a cooperative called Pavitramenthe, or holy mint. Dr. Bronner’s is the largest purchaser of its fair trade and organic mint oil, and as project partners, our Special Ops team has helped to nurture and expand regenerative organic practices on a large scale—enriching soil as well as communities while sequestering atmospheric carbon.
Pavitramenthe’s centralized compost program helps farmers increase soil biomass and fertility, improve the soil’s water-holding capacity, and increase yields, while avoiding chemical fertilizers and capturing atmospheric carbon that would otherwise contribute to global warming. Low tillage and the use of cover crops and crop rotation stabilizes the soil, preserves organic matter, reduces pest and weed pressures, and sequesters atmospheric nitrogen.
Meanwhile, the fair trade premium paid by Dr. Bronner’s funds medical camps, drinking water, home toilets, and other community-led development efforts, including creating opportunities for women in the community. From farm to shower, soul to soul, on and on we go.