Staying Sustainable in the Big Leagues
This past summer, I worked for Dr Bronner’s Soap, or their full name ‘Dr Bronner’s All-One-God-Faith’, at their headquarters in Vista, California. I was admittedly sceptical about working for such a large, international, multimillion dollar corporation. The past few years, I have done my best to steer clear of corporations as much as possible. This is for the usual reasons. For a start, they tend to support and emit everything I stand against, filling our skies with toxic chemicals and fossil fuels and drowning our lands and seas in plastic and trash. Not to mention the unfair labour and wages for their employees, and stark, corruptive capitalism they are often tied up in. There are exceptions, but most major corporations seem to be prioritising profit over planet, and this fuels my dislike.
However, I had heard praise from friends, family, social media accounts, activists (and the frequent trips to my favourite ‘eco-stores’) about Dr Bronner’s ethical supply chains, squeaky clean transparency, progressive climate actions, and movement towards ‘constructive capitalism’. So, when the opportunity arose to work for them, I took it. This summer job served to open my eyes towards the positive potential of corporations, and change my attitude towards which role they could play in climate change solutions as well.
Dr Bronner’s motto, proudly written in large, bold font on every single one of their products, is ‘All-One’. This slogan speaks to the interconnectedness of all things – people, planet, and everything in between – in a spiritual, physiological, ecological, and even metaphysical sense. Dr Bronner’s founder – Emmanuel Bronner – elaborates on the motto almost philosophically in his Moral ABC’s, which are his guiding principles for how a fair and ethical life should be lived, and what he sees as guiding Dr Bronner’s company culture. From my own first-hand experience, I can confirm Dr Bronner’s keeps to these standards.
Though the hours did take some getting used to (each day started at 6:30 in the morning), I felt I had a voice and recognition in the company from day one. Every idea I had was met with curiosity and enthusiasm, be it from my fellow co-workers, my manager, or the CEO and President: David and Michael Bronner. The free vegan lunch I received everyday was an obvious bonus, and also the walk I could take after it to the ‘Regen Region' (regenerative agriculture region), where all the food waste from the headquarters was composted and given new life.
Everyone seemed to be treated equally, from the production line staff all the way up to the executive suites. Though this is something we wish to see in all corporations, it is certainly not the norm. Dr Bronner’s exemplary inner workings give an insight into how this can be achieved.
To start off, the highest paid employee can only earn 5x as much as the lowest paid employee. This alone gives substantial room in a budget. Additionally, that extra unallocated income (almost 38% of the company’s entire income) goes to a huge variety of non-profit and philanthropic work, ranging from animal advocacy to regenerative agriculture and fair trade, to drug policy reform, and so much more. Beyond that, they’ve launched a programme with Patagonia and other companies called ‘Regenerative Organic Certified’, which works to ensure that companies are meeting the highest standards of social and ecological footprints in the production of their products. Not to mention they are B-Corp certified, ‘Best of Green Awards 2021’, and hold an impressive list of other awards and recognitions.
Part of the power they have to make these widespread changes is because of the fact that they are a corporation. They have the influence, money, and resources to make real change, which in this case, they are making good use of.
This understanding is what changed my views so dramatically. Rather than seeing corporations as the enemy, as the antithesis of climate activism, I started to understand them as a crucial ally in fighting the climate crisis. When managed with climate and social justice values in mind, as Dr Bronner’s proves possible, corporations could be important players to solving climate change. Studies have shown that the biggest 100 companies in the world are responsible for almost 70% of the globe’s carbon emissions. Think about the impact it could have if all of these corporations decided to go just a little greener?
Yes, there are still many, many corporations that are responsible for so much environmental harm. Exxon Mobil continues to spill oil in our oceans, Coca-Cola is still the biggest plastic polluter in the world, and cheap production from places like Zara and H&M continue to fill our landfills. However, emerging from the dark shadow these powerful companies have placed over the business world, is a beautiful, new wave of businesses and entrepreneurs that are eager and excited about doing things differently – doing things more sustainably. We all saw Patagonia’s ground-breaking announcement to donate all profits to climate solutions. Elon Musk used the money and scientific advances from Tesla to provide solar panels and power to almost all of Puerto Rico after a massive storm. Ecosia plants trees in correspondence with its search engine. Not to mention the thousands of amazing start-ups that are doing their part to find climate solutions in new and creative ways. With this emergence of new business models and strong environmental initiatives within companies, corporations may be the missing puzzle piece in accelerating the stop to the damage we are doing to our planet.
Making the shift towards greener corporations, and greener living, is possible, and needed. If we do so, we can live long, happy, healthy lives on Spaceship Earth, and we can be All-One together.
- If you are interested in more about Dr Bronner’s business model, check out their book!!
- In other breaking news, Patagonia just launched another ground-breaking model for using corporations to save the planet!
- For more information about the link between corporations and climate change, and the positive outcome they can promote, click here.