Biome has been shortlisted as a finalist for "Responsible Retailer Initiative of the Year" at the 2018 World Retail Awards for our palm oil free
initiative that has set off a chain reaction in the natural products industry. We are thrilled to see our Australian business recognised among major corporations with billion dollar turnovers. We've shown that you don't have to be big to make an impact, just innovative and brave! And, importantly, it means that the issue of palm oil in consumer products is being spotlighted on the world stage. Let's hope retailers from around the world, especially those with immense purchasing power, take notice and put palm oil on their ethical agenda. Biome has pioneered eco-friendly and ethical retail in Australia since 2003, and today our online store and four physical stores have grown to employ 60 people and provide a marketplace for around 300 like-minded suppliers. Here's the other finalists we're up against in the Responsible Retailer category:
- Coop Switzerland (Switzerland) with 85,000 employees.
- Cotton On (Australia) with 1,500 stores world-wide and 22,000 employees.
- ECOALF (Spain) sold at 300 retail outlets
- Kingfisher (UK) home improvements chain with 1,211 stores
- The Body Shop (UK) with 3000 stores world-wide
- Sonae (Portugal) with five billion Euro in revenue in 90 countries
The World Retail Award winners will be announced on 19 April 2018.
Our Palm Oil Free Champions Initiative
Palm oil is one of the most catastrophic environmental issues facing the planet today. The palm oil and logging industries in Malaysia and Indonesia are sending orangutans, tigers and many other species to extinction, and subjecting them to horrific cruelty along the way. In fact, new research has found that half the orangutan population of Borneo (100,000 orangutans) have been killed or removed in just 16 years1
. In the past year, our team has worked relentlessly to research and implement a palm oil free policy. We believe that Biome is the only natural products retailer in Australia, and possibly the world, to have taken this drastic step. We are certainly the first retail store in the world to gain endorsement by leading consumer action group, Palm Oil Investigations (POI), for our entire store being free from palm oil of unknown origin. To do this, we had to remove from our stores a large number of products with ingredients derived from palm oil. This is big risk for our business as most of the body, hair and cleaning products that were a large part of our revenue contained palm oil. However, after 14 years of asking companies to declare palm oil use on their packaging or to not use palm, nothing was changing. While some brands claim to be cruelty free and promote everything they do not contain, palm oil is hidden in their formulations. We believe that if a product contains palm and it is not known where it was grown, the product is not guaranteed cruelty free. Why is palm oil used in almost every personal care and cleaning product?
Any body or cosmetics product that is creamy such as moisturisers, liquid and pressed makeup, or sunscreen requires an emulsifying agent to bind the water/aloe and oil together into a cream. That emulsifier is more than likely palm oil-derived. Similarly, most plant-based detergents (or surfactants) in soap, shampoo, body cleansers, laundry and dishwashing detergent are derived from palm or coconut, and the two are interchanged depending on seasonality and cost. Palm is preferred because it lathers better and is cheaper. Why is palm oil so difficult to avoid?
With processed food, palm is listed in a form more akin to what it is e.g. "Vegetable Oil". However, with skin and hair care, makeup, and cleaning products, palm oil is an input used to manufacture some 1000 artificial chemical compounds–
and once an ingredient has been altered synthetically, it is identified by its chemical name not its source. You would never recognise palm in these ingredients found in natural skin care: Glycerine, Stearic Acid, Polyglyceryl Dipolyhydroxystearate, Cetyl Alcohol, Caprylic Triglyceride, Glyceryl Stearate, and Potassium Cetyl Phosphate. In the complex supply chain, oil palm fruit goes to a mill, oil refinery, all along being pooled and traded on the commodity market. Thus, it is almost impossible for a chemical manufacturer to guarantee the exact plantation the palm used in its chemical process came from. These chemical ingredients are then purchased by manufacturers who combine them with other ingredients to make the branded product that you end up using. For Biome's strict standards, brands were required to provide binding guarantees back along the supply chain that no palm oil was used at any point to make ingredients. Once asked for this, many were unable to provide the guarantee. Claims of "sustainable palm oil" are also generally greenwashing because the majority of palm is untraceable, and there is no reliable system to certify what that claim means. Thus, Biome decided the only ethical way was to avoid palm oil altogether. We are very grateful to Palm Oil Investigations for their expertise and guidance with this process. Read more about the problem with palm oil and what Biome is doing here.
Biome customers are a compassionate and conscious-living community and we have received enthusiastic support from them for this bold stand. Our customers can now shop with confidence knowing the products they purchase from Biome will not have contributed to the harming of endangered species. Biome now leads the palm oil free movement in the retail space. Our initiative has set off a chain reaction, influencing other brands and retailers to review the palm oil in their product formulations and retail stores. Other retailers have started promoting 'palm oil free' products, although they are still selling other products that contain this harmful ingredient. We are showing consumers that it is possible to buy products that meet their needs without palm oil, and we are proving to the industry that there is consumer demand for those products.
Biome's approach to business is certified by the international B Corporation,
the first retailer in Australia to achieve this. B Corporation is a non-profit that assesses a company's governance, environmental and social impact, and certifies businesses on their ability to create value for all stakeholders, not only shareholders. Biome is dedicated to protecting the planet via our ethical and innovative retail business model that empowers customers to make a difference to the well-being of themselves and the planet through education, and by providing an extensive range of thoroughly evaluated environmentally and socially responsible products. Biome offers all the products and tools needed to live a zero waste, toxin free and ethical life ranging from reusable coffee cups and beeswax food wraps to organic skin care, and make your own food and skin care kits. Customers can shop at Biome by the values important to them, such as vegan, plastic free and palm oil free
, knowing that the products have passed Biome's strict criteria and are verified for truth in labelling, safe ingredients and zero harm to people, animals and the planet. (1) http://www.abc.net.au/news/science/2018-02-16/orangutan-numbers-in-borneo-drop-more-than-100,000-in-16-years/9443326