Certified Fair Trade Means a Fair Go For All

Dr. Bronner’s Use Fair Trade Coconut, Palm and Olive Oils to Promote Farm Worker Health and Quality of Life

July 29, 2010

While Dr. Bronner’s is passionate about the benefits of certified organic ingredients to their customers, they are equally as passionate about the benefits of using certified Fair Trade ingredients to the living and working conditions of their farmers and employees in developing nations. Simply put, Certified Fair Trade is a win-win for all.

By shifting their supply chain to Fair Trade ingredients, Dr. Bronner’s is making a big difference in the lives of several thousand farmers and workers and according to Michael Bronner, Vice President of the company, “is money well spent”.

“To improve the livelihoods of farmers and workers in our area of economic influence, Dr. Bronner’s has reorganised how we source our major raw materials, including organic coconut, palm, and olive oil,” explains Bronner.

“These ingredients account for more than 95% of our raw material purchases and we have developed a program to ensure they are produced according to certified Fair Trade standards,” he said.

Farmers in the developing world routinely suffer when market prices fall below costs of production. They are often exploited by local traders who don’t pay on time and provide credit at excessive interest rates, trapping them in impoverished conditions. Likewise, workers often do not even receive legal minimum wages or benefits and working conditions can be inhumane.


  • Dr. Bronner’s purchase their major materials directly from sources that provide collective power to growers and workers and are partners in implementing community development projects.
  • Dr. Bronner’s guarantees farmers a price, which covers cost of production and a decent return, even when market prices collapse, with an organic premium paid on top. Pricing is transparent to farmers, and payments will be on time.
  • Dr. Bronner’s ensures that fair wages are paid to farm and factory workers, the rules of the International Labor Organization on worker representation and work hours are followed, and physical working conditions are comfortable and safe.
  • Dr. Bronner’s pay an extra Fair Trade premium, 10% of the price of materials and labour. Depending on local needs, the premium either goes directly to growers to improve their income or into a fund for local development projects such as education, day care and health care programs; sanitation improvement; organic fertiliser provisions to small growers; and funding for small businesses.
  • For ongoing inspection and certification of Dr. Bronner’s Fair Trade program, they work with the Swiss organic certifying organization IMO. They are also working with the Fair Trade Labeling Organization (FLO) to develop product specific standards for their major materials. Expanding visibility and availability of Fair Trade ingredients to other companies.

Dr. Bronner’s is sourcing 90% of the approximately 80 metric tons of olive oil they use annually from Palestinian fair trade producers near Jenin in the West Bank. Here, the trading firm Canaan Fair Trade was founded by Palestinians who support peaceful coexistence with Israel and see profitable olive farming as a means of improving Palestinians’ economic situation (http://www.canaanfairtrade.com/). Canaan works closely with the Palestine Fair Trade Association and purchases oil from 1600 smallholders organized in the PFTA. The purchase of olive oil and contribution of a fair trade premium will help improve economic conditions and provide additional funds for public services such as healthcare and education in the olive producing region. Most importantly, Dr. Bronner’s cooperation with Canaan allows Palestinian growers to trade directly with growing high-value markets for organic and fair trade materials and redevelop their traditional livelihood.

In late 2005, Dr. Bronner’s started the world’s first commercial-size production of certified organic and fair trade coconut oil, the luxurious oil they use as the main ingredient in their liquid soaps. Dr. Bronner’s took over an existing coconut processing factory in Sri Lanka’s “Coconut Triangle” region, made major improvements, installed new technology, and recruited and converted some 250 coconut estates (4500 acres) to organic practices. Working conditions and benefits for their factory workers were considerably improved. Dr. Bronner’s is producing organic fertilizer to help estates maintain soil fertility – and productivity – by natural means. This will help preserve coconut farming as an important source of income for a wide range of growers in rural Sri Lanka – from small subsistence farmers to family-owned estates – and revitalize an industry that has deteriorated in past decades but has the potential to give food and fair employment to a large population.

Dr. Bronner’s uses palm oil in all of their bar soaps. Rest assured, the palm oil Dr. Bronner’s uses is harvested from sustainable farmland in Ghana where there are no Orangutans and no rainforests. Like coconut oil, certified organic and fair trade palm oil has not been commercially available until now. In partnership with the US company Jungle Products and in cooperation with the NGO Fearless Planet, Dr. Bronner’s organised some 100 small growers of oil palms, converted them to organic practices, built an “organic only” oil palm processing plant that is based on the traditional system commonly used by women entrepreneurs, and incorporates advanced appropriate technology. The project is also run by a co-op of entrepreneurs. Dr. Bronner’s fair trade program in Ghana, ensures that the numerous people working in the complete processing chain for palm oil will be fairly compensated and the fair trade premium will support local development projects.

Dr. Bronner believed “CONSTRUCTIVE CAPITALISM IS WHERE YOU SHARE THE PROFIT WITH THE WORKERS AND THE EARTH FROM WHICH YOU MADE IT! The company today is honouring that legacy as best they can.



Notes to editor
Dr. Bronner’s products are available at health, natural product and organic stores nationally. Stockist number: 03 9572 3311 or visit www.drbronner.com.au

For further information on Dr. Bronner’s, product samples or to schedule an interview with Michael Bronner, please contact Belinda Andrade at PR Chicks
0425 252 822 or email belinda@prchicks.com.au