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Sustainability management at Dr. Bronner's - a field report

Sustainability management at Dr. Bronner's - a field report
The lecture series "Resource Efficiency and Sustainability" started in the winter semester 2018/19 with Axel Rungweber, Managing Director Europe of Dr. Bronner's, an American producer of organic certified and fair traded cosmetic products. The lecture was organized by Prof. Dr. Katharina Kilian-Yasin, Ethics Officer of the University of Applied Sciences Pforzheim and Head of the International Industrial Engineering Department.

The lecture "Managing Sustainable Value Chains - The Case of Dr. Bronner`s" focused on how a company for cosmetics can be successful in a saturated market and how supply chains can be designed sustainably. According to Axel Rungweber, credibility, integrity and authenticity are the answer to this question and must be reflected as values and lived practice like a red thread in the entire business model of the company. If this project is successful, then customers will become brand ambassadors who convey the company's values and philosophy to the outside world. According to Axel Rungweber, the corporate philosophy comprises six principles: responsible growth, careful dealings with customers, treatment of employees and family, fair dealings with suppliers, responsible dealings with the earth and natural resources as well as commitment to the right thing. Compliance with these principles always has priority for the company, even if this results in economic disadvantages.

In his lecture Axel Rungweber gave the audience an exciting, practical and deep insight into the different working areas of the company. He spoke about the business challenges of a small company in the German market, its positioning in relation to established brands and the challenge of generating profit while at the same time maintaining the company's socially oriented philosophy. He lectured on the challenges of complying with standards and certification requirements. For its products, the company uses raw materials from fair trade as far as possible in order to promote sustainability in the supply chains. In order to maintain the desired transparency and control over the social and environmental impacts of the raw materials on site, Dr. Bronner's implements its own Fairtrade projects. One example is palm oil from the Ghanaian city of Asuom. There, palm fruits are cultivated by several hundred small family farms that have been cultivating palm fears for generations. He also provided information on intercultural aspects of working with suppliers around the world. Mr. Rungweber said that successful cooperation is based on meeting the villagers at eye level and respecting their culture. When people feel accepted and respected, they have a stronger bond with the company and the project. According to the speaker Axel Rungweber, the principles of Dr. Bronner's successful action can be applied to many companies and start-ups. The sustainable design of supply chains remains a great challenge for companies and requires innovative solutions, also and especially from the students in the audience.

The Dr. Bronner's company has its origins in the soap factory of the family Heilbronner in Laupheim, Swabia. The family Heilbronner succeeded for the first time in producing liquid soaps, which were delivered to customers all over Germany. Emanuel Heilbronner, third generation soap maker, emigrated to the USA in 1929 to escape the burgeoning anti-Semitism in Germany and implement his own ideas for soap making there. He dedicated himself to the goal of a fair world without war and hatred and gave lectures on his vision. He always gave away soaps to his listeners, so that some attended his lectures just because of the soaps. Finally he founded with Dr. Bronner's his own soap production in the USA. He placed his vision "We are ALL-ONE or None! on the packaging of all his products.

Information about the company can be found here.