The case describes the situation facing David Bronner, Cosmic Engagement Officer (CEO) for Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps (Dr. Bronner’s), the top-selling natural soap in North America in 2019. Since its founding, the company has centered advocacy for unity and social change. David and the leadership team are deciding whether to extend the brand further by publicizing its support for psychedelics in mental health care. David believes passionately in this cause, and he has been a major supporter of scientific and political efforts to support the informed use of psychedelics to alleviate suffering. While scientific studies are increasingly highlighting their promise and Dr. Bronner’s has experience with other “label” campaigns for social issues, psychedelics remain Schedule I drugs, and other key decision-makers lack David’s zeal for the cause. Dr. Bronner’s established its unique position in the mid-20th century based on founder Emil Bronner’s “all-one” vision of universal love and his German family’s multigenerational expertise as soapmakers. Since his death in 1998, the family-owned firm has grown rapidly and profitably, topping $120 million in annual revenues. Students are asked to make a recommendation about whether to introduce a label campaign that the protagonist is passionate about but carries clear risks, and to weigh in on how that decision relates to the firm’s perspective on value creation. The case is suitable for strategy and ethics courses at the undergraduate, graduate, and executive education levels. This case was taught at the University of Virginia Darden School of Business in 2023 in the "Feminism, Work, and Economics" course; in the graduate capstone course "Reimagining Capitalism and the Purpose Driven Firm"; and in the undergraduate "Strategy and Systems" course.
(1) To evaluate the decision processes, ethics, and strategic choices a company makes in weighing a decision to allocate significant firm and brand resources to a controversial social issue. (2) To illustrate firm history, organization systems, and leadership issues associated with a firm and brand that is ensconced in social activism while generating significant economic growth and profits. (3) To introduce an overview of historical and current factors that constrain and enable the understanding of the potential for safe and effective dissemination of psychedelic-assisted therapy to advance progress on meaningful issues of mental suffering and human thriving.