Whole Story

The Official Whole Foods Market® Blog

Dr. Bronner's Soap Fair Trade Focus

Happy World Fair Trade Day! To mark this annual global celebration, I want to take a few minutes to spotlight one of our partners, Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soap.

Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soap was one of the first Whole Body™ products offered at our original Whole Foods Market® store in Austin, Texas, in 1980. Over the years, Dr. Bronner’s has both gained a strong following of dedicated shoppers and shown a steadfast commitment to caring for the communities and environment around them. The two achievements aren’t mutually exclusive, of course.

 

As a company offer fair trade products, Dr. Bronner’s extends that philosophy to the farmers and workers around the world who produce their major raw materials. In shifting their supply chains to Fair Trade ingredients, the company made a big difference in the lives of several thousand farmers and workers who, along with their families and communities, benefit from fair prices, living wages and funding for local development projects.

Take a closer look at one Fair Trade ingredient and its impact on one man and his community.

Coconut Oil from Sri Lanka

When they couldn’t find a suitable supply of fair trade organic coconut oil for their products, Dr. Bonner’s founded Serendipol (Pvt) Ltd., a Sri Lankan subsidiary, in 2007. Serendipol’s first task was to recruit coconut growers and convert them to organic and fair trade practices. They hired Dhanoj Meegahapola to manage the Fair Trade programs and purchasing of coconuts.

After Dhanoj’s own small coconut fiber business failed due to a drop in the market, the offer to set up Serendipol’s organic and fair trade structure changed his life and eventually those around him. Dhanoj trained a team of five extension officers, who then identified and converted some 400 growers with a combined 6,300 acres to organic practices. The team now handles the purchasing of some 15 million coconuts per year.

Dhanoj has been empowered by the company’s commitment to organic and fair trade practices and has had the opportunity to implement his favorite ideas – fair compensation, support of farmer and worker families, providing basic needs such as health care in rural areas and education – through hands-on economic activity. For example, he offers counseling services to workers and their families, who often go through family crises without having tools for conflict resolution.

Thanks to Dhanoj and others like him, Serendipol is now the world’s foremost source of organic and Fair Trade virgin coconut oil. They supply cosmetics-grade coconut oil for Dr. Bronner’s soaps and premium-quality, food-grade coconut oil, as well as organic coconut oil, to other like-minded companies.

Notably, fair trade certification mandates a 10% margin be put into a fund to pay for community projects. Serendipol’s Fair Trade Fund collects more than $150,000 per year from its customers for community development projects. Funded projects include procuring critical medical equipment for several local hospitals and providing schools with toilets and books, as well as projects for Serendipol’s workers, such as home improvement funds and school supplies.

Their committee is also working to help disadvantaged rural communities connect to the grid and have their own water supply at a low cost. Learn more about Serendipol’s efforts in this video:

Choices count Small choices you make every day really make a difference in the world. When you choose products like Dr. Bronner’s Magic “All-One!” Soaps or their Fair Trade & Organic Fresh-Pressed Virgin Coconut Oil, you are actively using your buying power to create new economic opportunities for workers in the developing world. Imagine the possibilities.