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Dr. Bronner's: Do Psychedelics Fit with Its Cosmic Principles?
Freeman, R. Edward; King, Adelaide Wilcox; Maiden, Stephen E. Case S-0405 / Published August 1, 2023 / 22 pages.
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Product Overview

This field-based case describes the situation facing David Bronner, cosmic engagement officer (CEO) of Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps (Dr. Bronner’s), the top-selling brand of natural soaps in North America in 2019. Since its founding, the company has centered advocacy for unity and social change in its products and giving. The question before David and the leadership team is whether to extend the brand further by publicizing its support for the use of psychedelics to treat mental health. 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 soap makers. Since his death in 1998, the family-owned firm has grown rapidly and profitably, reaching revenues over $120 million in 2018. Students are asked to make a recommendation about whether to introduce a label campaign declaring support for psychedelic therapy and to assess that decision in ways that align clearly with the firm’s perspective on value creation. The case is designed primarily for a core curriculum course in business strategy or business ethics. Because of the issues it raises, it also works well in brand marketing and leadership courses. The decisions embedded in the case are pertinent to all levels—MBA students, undergraduates, and executives. This case has been taught at the Darden School of Business in the second-year “Feminism, Work, and Economics” MBA course; it has also been taught at the McIntire School of Commerce in the graduate capstone course “Reimagining Capitalism and the Purpose Driven Firm” and in the undergraduate “Strategy and Systems” course.



Learning Objectives

(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 the firm history, organizational systems, and leadership issues associated with a firm and brand rooted in social activism. (3) To introduce an overview of historical and current factors that constrain and enable the potential for healing and value creation through psychedelic-assisted therapy.


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  • Overview

    This field-based case describes the situation facing David Bronner, cosmic engagement officer (CEO) of Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps (Dr. Bronner’s), the top-selling brand of natural soaps in North America in 2019. Since its founding, the company has centered advocacy for unity and social change in its products and giving. The question before David and the leadership team is whether to extend the brand further by publicizing its support for the use of psychedelics to treat mental health. 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 soap makers. Since his death in 1998, the family-owned firm has grown rapidly and profitably, reaching revenues over $120 million in 2018. Students are asked to make a recommendation about whether to introduce a label campaign declaring support for psychedelic therapy and to assess that decision in ways that align clearly with the firm’s perspective on value creation. The case is designed primarily for a core curriculum course in business strategy or business ethics. Because of the issues it raises, it also works well in brand marketing and leadership courses. The decisions embedded in the case are pertinent to all levels—MBA students, undergraduates, and executives. This case has been taught at the Darden School of Business in the second-year “Feminism, Work, and Economics” MBA course; it has also been taught at the McIntire School of Commerce in the graduate capstone course “Reimagining Capitalism and the Purpose Driven Firm” and in the undergraduate “Strategy and Systems” course.

  • Learning Objectives

    Learning Objectives

    (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 the firm history, organizational systems, and leadership issues associated with a firm and brand rooted in social activism. (3) To introduce an overview of historical and current factors that constrain and enable the potential for healing and value creation through psychedelic-assisted therapy.