Biome: from online store to eco-friendly empire

A lot has changed since Tracey Bailey started Australia’s first online eco store, Biome, in 2003. Not only has she expanded Biome into five bricks-and-mortar locations around Brisbane, but consumer demand for environmentally friendly and ethical products has skyrocketed.

Bailey’s stores sell everything consumers need to live a more ethical life, from kitchenware to candles and beauty products, all of which are judged by strict standards. In fact, every product Biome stocks must be free from all known or suspected toxins, cruelty free, made without exploiting people or animals, longer lasting than alternatives, and verified for all claims like ‘organic’ and ‘biodegradable’.

“Biome gives our customers peace of mind that the choices they make are safe for their body, their home and our world,” says Bailey. “We show that it is possible to enjoy high performing products like our super clean, cruelty free beauty ranges without sacrificing your health and the values that are important to you.”

This rigorous environmental testing doesn’t just include the products Biome sells, but also the way Bailey runs her stores. Earlier this year Biome became the first Australian retailer to be awarded B Corporation certification, for its success in operating a business with the highest social and environmental standards.

Bailey says that attaining certification was about practising what she preached. “A large part of the service Biome offers our customers is to assess the claims being made by our suppliers about the social and environmental responsibility of their products.

“I felt it was important that we applied that same rule to our business to show our customers that we uphold those levels of accountability in the way that we operate.

“Our business has to be sustainable in a true triple-bottom-line sense. We must remain financially viable or we cannot continue our mission, but we must achieve that with the highest standards of ethical, social and environmental performance… B Corporation certification is way to help show our customers that we are serious about what we stand for.”

Aside from the challenge of getting people to adopt more ecofriendly alternatives, the biggest obstacle Bailey has encountered in running Biome is something all retailers can relate to—the non-stop nature of the business.

“An intense amount of effort, creativity and emotion goes into our business across all roles day in, day out. It seems in retail in particular you cannot rest on your laurels. It’s challenging to maintain that intensity.”

Keeping up with social media is also a big focus for Bailey. Biome has active Facebook and Instagram accounts (with 91,500 and 20,100 likes respectively) where the team shares tips for living an eco-friendly life, customer reviews and showcases new products.

“Social media is critical to putting ourselves in front of our current and potential customers as often as possible,” says Bailey. “I cannot imagine that you could run a successful business today without using social media effectively…

“[My tip is] to actively monitor and participate in your social media every day. It is a demanding creature that responds very well to daily grooming.”

However, you should also maintain your own database of customers outside of social media. “Remember that you do not own your Facebook or Instagram profile and followers and there is a risk they will disappear for a reason beyond your control.”

As Biome has grown over the past 14 years, Bailey’s vision for the business has remained the same. “My approach is not that different to when we started, even though we now have a team of around 46 and operate from five physical locations…

“The mission of Biome has always been to change consumer habits for the betterment of all. Rather than despairing about what is going wrong in our world, I feel empowered and positive about the contribution I am making to the planet.

“As my daughters grow up, I hope that I am giving them the gift of knowing that we need not feel powerless, that we can all do something in our little part of the world to effect the change we wish to see.”

Heading into the future Bailey is focusing on getting back to basics and taking stock of the retail empire she has created.

“Our current focus at Biome is to refine and strengthen all of our procedures and guiding principles for the way we do business.

“We have experienced excellent growth year-on-year since we began and sometimes you need to take a breather and ensure that your foundation remains solid.”