Bee colony collapse disorder continues to generate concern, debate and action around the world. With bees playing a critical role in our lives and economy, a number of companies are running campaigns for the cause, particularly those whose businesses depend on plenty of healthy bees. Many are contributing to and collaborating with the scientific community and nonprofits to address the issue.
Whole Foods, whose business model relies significantly on the availability of sustainably grown produce and other bee-related products, continues its Share the Buzz campaign this year. The campaign stresses the role of bees in the food supply chain and advocates planting native flowers, going organic, etc. Whole Foods stores across the country host “Human Bee-In” events and “Give Bees a Chance” promotions to increase awareness on the subject. This year, it is looking at the impact of bees on dairy and how the loss of pollinators will drastically reduce the supply and choice of dairy products. To raise awareness amongst consumers, stores demonstrate how many of their favorite dairy products would cease to exist without bees. Last year, the company had run a similar campaign in the produce section and found that 52 percent of the normal product mix in the department is dependent on pollinators. The Whole Foods campaign also works with Oregon-based nonprofit The Xerces Society, with supplying partners contributing towards providing bee-friendly tools and education to farmers.
The Xerces Society has garnered support from another food giant — General Mills' Cascadian Farm, whose Save the Bees campaign contributes $1 for every Buzz Crunch Honey Almond cereal sold (exclusively at Whole foods) towards Xerces' Bring Back the Pollinators campaign. The cereal box serves as a bee tutorial with facts about the importance of bees and notes that without them, there would be 64 percent fewer items in a grocery store’s produce section.
Cascadian Farm is also supporting bee health research, building habitats and following certified organic practices to aid conservation. With Whole Foods and the Xerces Society, the company is working together on bee-friendly almond-farming practices in California.
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“The majority of Cascadian Farm’s products are dependent on bees, and we feel a responsibility to protect them,” said Taylor West, Marketing Manager for Cascadian Farm.
Another company working with the Xerces Society is Chantecaille. The cosmetics brand launched its Save the Bees Palette this Spring. Inspired by the world of bees, 5 percent of proceeds from the eye and cheek palette will be donated to Xerces.
Ongoing bee campaigns include those from Häagen Dasz and Burt's Bees. Häagen Dazs's Help the Honey Bees campaign, which was launched in 2009, continues to support research on the subject. The ice-cream giant funds the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility at UC Davis, home of the Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven, a half-acre bee-friendly garden.
No surprise that natural skincare products leader Burt's Bees is also a supporter of its namesake with its Wild for Bees campaign. The campaign worked with Pollinator Partnership to use short films , an app and garden kits to promote awareness. It also started the Honeybee Health Improvement Project to award research grants to scientists working towards a solution for the colony collapse problem. Encouraging change at home, Burt's Bees reimburses employees for expenses to become beekeepers or install and maintain pollinator-friendly home gardens.
Even though controversy reigns on the role of companies such as Monsanto in the decline of bee populations, last year the company joined a multi-stakeholder coalition aimed at improving health in honeybee populations at the Clinton Global Initiative. The company is also working with honeybee research nonprofit PAm (Project Apis m) to assist in forage projects in order to provide more nutritious food for bees, and with the Honey Bee Advisory Council on bee health research and development.
Just last week, the US celebrated the National Pollinator Week (June 16-22) to increase awareness about their importance. Underlining the urgency and seriousness of the issue, the White House announced a federal strategy to reverse the decline of bees and other pollinators in the United States. The EPA and USDA will lead a multi-agency task force to develop a strategy and action plan within six months.
Bee well-being is an issue that brings all sections of society from consumers, farmers, industries, non-profits, scientists and the government to work together - one hopes that all this human buzz succeeds in bringing the bees back.