Come with me to California and find out what Dr. Bronner's really mean when they say, ‘All One!’ – Part 1

Themes: Beauty, non-toxic, skin care, organic soap, regenerative agriculture, fair trade, climate justice, disaster resilience


For those of you I haven't met, my name's Maree Lowes. I'm the first brand ambassador to Dr. Bronner's Australia... or Dr. Bronner's anywhere in the world, really. Which is why I’m talking to you here through these words.

In the March just gone, I travelled to California to dig deeper into the family, cult brand and global B Corporation that is THE Dr. Bronner’s. Two members of Dr. Bronner’s Team Australia and I took a 14-hour flight to our first stop in Anaheim. Known as the home of Disneyland, we were there for a very different attraction: Expo West. Expo West is a global natural health gathering and bite-sized-snack wonderland with hall after hall of bamboozling aisles of products. (It's also host to a number of brands whose presence at a “health” event was more than questionable. But I digress…).

Dr. Bronner’s has a worldwide supply chain, and key players from all layers and locations arrived for this event in Anaheim. Over team dinners, we got to ask each other questions about areas well outside of each person’s daily role. We also ate pozole (a Mexican soup known for nourishing whole families) cooked by the mother-in-law of an LA based team member (Ryan). And we danced in their backyard to an LA garage band, while the moon lit up handpicked flowers lining the long, fold out tables at which we’d eaten earlier on.

The Bronner family continued to wrap around us when Lisa Bronner (an esteemed author in her own right) took us for a day at the Palomar Observatory. Here, Lisa told me, her Grandfather Emanuel would go to sit in contemplation. The family's ongoing reverence for their history and story awed me yet again. We drove up and down the mountains through land long held by the La Jolla, Rincon, Pauma, Pala and Luiseño peoples, Cahuilla to the East. I lost my mind with happiness hugging redwood trees! It was a dream come true kind of day, which we finished by playfully debating the best way to wrap up your burrito with Lisa's deeply insightful husband (and Dr Bronner's US COO), Michael Milam, and her two children at their dinner table. Talk about welcoming us in!

After a couple of days, we then travelled further down the sparkling blue Southern California coastline to the Dr. Bronner’s headquarters in Vista. We went here to see firsthand how things are done on every level of the business. So, I had meetings with people on every level of the business. We walked the factory floor and were cellularly connected with the joy, vitality, and prosperity that Dr. Bronner’s workers both cultivate and receive onsite. The employee justice and care for quality of life here surprised me. Actually, this trip was FULL of surprises. But before we get to them, let’s start from the start...

Here's what I already knew:

When I was initially invited to come onboard with Dr. Bronner’s Australia I heard about Dr. Bronner’s three pillar approach of "regenerative", “organic' and "fair trade" farming for the raw materials in their soap supply chain, notably coconut, palm, olive, and mint oils. In the first Zoom meetings with Mel and Bianca from Team Australia - two women who were my initial points of contact and have gone on to become deeply valued collaborators - I heard about the ways Dr. Bronner's works to improve health and productivity of their soils, as well as commits to improving workers and farmer’s rights and lives. I listened to the way they invest in for-purpose vehicles to improve soil conditions, such as large compost-turners and the introduction of affordable and safe menstrual health products in collaboration with females in the villages that supply Dr. Bronner’s partner at Pavitramenthe farm in India with regenerative mint oils.

I thought I understood that Dr. Bronner's do good and have a somewhat radical but practical way of doing good. I thought I got it.

Here's what more I found:

Dr. Bronner's is a truly revolutionary example of how businesses can cultivate regeneration for the future, as well as market and disaster resilience, on every level at every turn. And they can do it today. 

The impact of this should not be underestimated.

We're at a tipping point in humanity and planetary boundaries. Governments are stalling on critical decision making while citizens and ecosystems bear the burden. Business sits in the middle - with greater collective power than individuals and faster speed and freedom for innovation than politics presently allow. This is notably true for closely, or even family held businesses that can afford to spend their profit on what they want, rather than returning them to external shareholders.

From its beginnings, Emanuel Bronner stitched social impact into the business' seams. Back in 2005, the Dr. Bronner’s agricultural supplies picture didn’t look the way it does now. Emanuel’s grandsons, David and Mike Bronner asked a good friend, Dr. Gero Leson to shift the company’s supply of agricultural raw materials to certified organic and fair trade sources. Gero became the head of the Special Operations Team which has achieved an unimaginable transformation of their supply chain. By 2024, Dr. Bronner’s sourcing of organic and fair trade raw materials came to benefit some 35,000 farmers, employees, and their families, worldwide—improving livelihoods while simultaneously regenerating soil. From Sri Lanka to Palestine and Israel, Samoa to India, Ghana to South Africa and beyond, they are global in scope yet deeply personal in their enactment of care.

By using regenerative methods such as synthetic-spray-free farming, minimal tillage, intercropping and mixed agroforestry, the microbiology in the soil food web is well fed and the organic matter in the soil is regenerated. Abundance, diversity, and complexity are cultivated. Field trials have repeatedly shown improvement in the soil’s carbon content, and therefore its capacity to cycle carbon and to hold water (it's ‘hydrofile’). This is goodness from the ground up and representative of what peer reviewed science tells us about the benefits of regenerative agriculture. Zooming out for some context for a minute, regenerative agriculture is a movement taking hold in each land around the world. At its core, “regen ag” (as it's endearingly referred to) encompasses a diverse range of farming practices such as those listed above, and ways of knowing. Regen ag is “knowledge intensive”, rather than “input intensive”. It strives to leave behind the ecological and human exploitation and depletion sown into industrialised, conventional farming; and a moving towards practices which cultivate vitality, abundance, and diversity for all forms of life. As First Nations Justice is the soil from which all other land and ecological justice can grow, truly regenerative agriculture requires a deep listening to millennia-old modes of stewardship and care for self, community, and Country. From here, emerging technologies and syntheses can be adopted to meet the challenges of our time.

Ok, that’s it for the nitty gritty of regen… stay tuned for Part 2 of this blog where I take you back to California and into the unseen parts of Dr. Bronner’s headquarters and what they really, really mean when they say, “All One!”


A bit about Maree…

Maree was on TV around the world for a good while as dirtgirl - an eco warrior alter persona, and if you have kids, there’s a good chance you’ve “gotten grubby” with her and the mighty dirtgirlworld village. In "real life", she's fortunate to have spent over a decade walking with families, farmers and First Nations communities towards a better future for the planet. Sitting under her surfaces is an understanding that we humans belong, alongside all Kin, to this embodied network of life that we call ‘nature’. We are nature. “Individualism has unstitched the threads which hold us in a fabric with our relations, where care for you is care for me because we are All One”, says Maree, “So I'm deeply passionate about amplifying the wisdom of communities who understand that your liberation and fulfilment is inextricably tied up with mine”. She's qualified (if you’re into that kinda thing) with an undergraduate degree in Psychology and Indigenous Studies, a graduate certificate in Disaster Risk Reduction through the UN, a permaculture design certificate, a yoga teacher qualification and a soil microbiology course. Her academic and real-life studies have given Maree insight into all layers of care, from ‘self’ to Community, Country and Climate. As a conduit for different communities' storytelling, many of whom are Othered and exploited by colonial and corporate structures, deep listening has become the most important thing she does.

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