During a career in shipping and business Brunner became friends with Ludwig Mond and they formed a company to manufacture soda ash. As Brunner, Mond and Co. they went on to become leaders in the chemical industry. They introduced socially enlightened measures in their company including sickness and injury insurance, apprentice education, shorter working hours and holidays with pay for their workers. A Liberal in politics, Brunner was elected MP for Northwich in 1885. He lost to a Liberal Unionist in 1886 but won the seat back at a by-election in 1887 and held it until standing down at the January 1910 general election when he was succeeded by his son. He supported Home Rule, the role of trade unions and free trade. Brunner was created a baronet in 1895 and became a privy councillor in 1906 but turned down several offers of a peerage. He died aged 77 in 1919.