Dr. Bronner’s Releases New Video about their Fair Trade Organic Palm Oil Project in Eastern Ghana
As Demand for Sustainable Palm Oil Increases, Leading Natural Soap Brand Offers “Gold Standard” Alternative
July 28, 2014
VISTA, CA – Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps, the family-owned maker of the top-selling brand of natural soaps in North America, has released a short documentary video about Serendipalm, a sister company that ethically and sustainably produces fair trade and organic palm oil in Ghana. Farmers and workers who produce the palm oil receive fair prices and wages, and its production does not displace primates or other animals from their natural habitats. To view the video, entitled, “Sustainable Palm Oil: The Difference Fair Trade Makes,” go to: youtu.be/z2q0O4SlY9g.
“We want to educate consumers about our efforts that have created fair and sustainable supply chains for all major ingredients used in our products,” explains David Bronner, President of Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps. “Considering the negative impact of conventional palm oil production, we are particularly proud to have demonstrated that palm oil can be produced in a fair, responsible, and sustainable way.”
The World Wildlife Federation estimates that palm oil is an ingredient found in about half of all packaged food products sold in grocery stores throughout the United States. To supply the large and fast growing demand for palm oil and create arable land for palm tree plantations, rainforests from Brazil to Borneo are destroyed by clear-cutting and strategic burning. Often, these plantations are in developing tropical nations, and are run by multi-national corporations that exploit farmers and laborers, trample native land rights, and do nothing to improve workers’ communities or standard of living. In Borneo, this practice of industrial palm oil production is destroying the last remaining natural orangutan habitats. Around the world, the slash-and-burn approach to natural resources is destroying fragile ecosystems.
“While palm plantations are among the worst culprits of conventional corporate industrial agriculture, many other industrially grown conventional crops have similar negative impacts,” David Bronner continues. “For example, rainforest is being burned for chemical intensive GMO soy monoculture, to feed confined factory animals. We need to move to sustainable organic agricultural systems that build soil health and yields naturally and sustainably.”
Serendipalm Co. Ltd., Dr. Bronner’s sister company in Ghana, was launched in 2007. It has been a cornerstone of the brand’s strategy to source all main ingredients used in their top-selling products from projects with organic and fair trade certification. The entire operation, based in rural eastern Ghana, was built “from scratch.” Today, the mill is the largest and most attractive employer in its host town of Asuom, with over 200 staff, both workers and professionals. It buys all its organic certified palm fruits from some 700 local smallholder farmers, who farm over 4,000 acres with organic methods that improve soil fertility naturally and support biodiversity.
“Dr. Bronner’s and Serendipalm prioritize working directly with smallholder farmers and establishing long-term direct trading partnerships that deliver greater direct impacts to local communities,” says Gero Leson, Director of Special Operations for Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps. “Our close connection with our farmers ensures a clean and transparent supply chain, eliminates intermediaries and allows for direct cooperation, both on the farm and in the community.”
Serendipalm currently operates one mill at full capacity servicing only Dr. Bronner’s and a select group of European customers. It currently produces 450 metric tons (MT) of crude palm oil per year. In order to meet Dr. Bronner’s growing demand for fair trade palm oil, Serendipalm is currently expanding the mill to improve efficiencies, thus increasing positive community impact.
From the project’s beginning Serendipalm has been an active community partner. Unique to fair trade sourcing, local community development projects funded by sales of certified fair trade products are chosen jointly by local farmers, workers, and other stakeholders for the betterment of the community at large. This democratic and participatory process underlines the transformational impact of fair trade for local communities. The project’s fair trade fund has invested in several notable development projects including building nurses’ quarters for a local hospital and constructing four deep water wells to provide clean drinking water for the community. In addition, Serendipalm has helped local farmers to replant their palm trees with more productive varieties through a zero-interest loan program. The most recent initiative was the purchase, distribution, and installation of 5,000 mosquito bed nets for local households to help reduce malaria infection.
Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps’ commitment to fair trade, healthy and sustainable agriculture, and corporate accountability, is part of the company’s mission to put into practice the social and ecological principles that inform Dr. Bronner’s philosophy printed on the company’s iconic soap labels.
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