Dr. Bronner's: Organic Coconut Oil from Sri Lanka
Our organic coconut oil, with its unmatched lauric acid content that gives our soaps such a rich cleansing lather, now comes from Sri Lanka. Our subsidiary Serendipol (Pvt) Ltd. took over an existing coconut processing factory in Sri Lanka's "Coconut Triangle" region, improved buildings, installed new processing technology, and helped convert about 300 coconut farms (encompassing 4,000 acres total) to organic practices. From small subsistence farms of 2-5 acres to mid-sized family farms of 100 acres or more, our farmers symbolize how Sri Lanka grows its most popular food crop - and also how past lack of stewardship has eroded soil fertility and farm profitability, while threatening a traditional industry and important rural employer. Because Dr. Bronner's takes organic farming seriously, Serendipol produces, finances and supplies organic fertilizer at cost, thus helping our growers increase their yields by 30-50%. Higher yields, along with the organic premium we pay, motivate them to improve land stewardship and working conditions for their mostly casual workers. Thus, our project is helping to revitalize an industry that has deteriorated in past decades but has the potential to give food and fair employment to a large population in rural Sri Lanka. In addition to supplying Dr. Bronner's needs, Serendipol also markets its food grade oil to select socially-responsible companies. Because demand for the oil is growing fast, we expect to expand our contract acreage to 10,000 acres (4,000 hectares) by 2010.
Working conditions and benefits for Serendipol's factory workers are excellent. Fair compensation of our growing staff, good working conditions and dialog between workers and management, along with benefits such as health insurance and meal subsidies, create a great working atmosphere that easily attracts workers from the surrounding villages. Serendipol also pays a Fair Trade premium on all purchases of nuts and factory labor into a fund for health, education, sustainable agriculture and local development. With a projected capacity of more than 2,000 metric tons per year of virgin oil plus food grade seedcake, the project demonstrates that producing in a fair, transparent and sustainable manner can also be profitable.