How Companies Can Protect the Nation’s Pollinators

Pollinators – bees, bats, butterflies and more – may be small in size, but they have a huge impact on our lives. Scientists estimate one out of every three bites of food we eat exist because of them. Without pollinators, our diets would be limited. Companies, however, can play a role in protecting them.

The Corporate Pollinator Ecosystem Project – an initiative of the U.S. Business Council for Sustainable Development and Pollinator Partnership – is helping identify threats to pollinators and quantifying their habitats.

The project is timely as 40 percent of invertebrate pollinator species face extinction, with bees and butterflies especially in danger. In fact, seven bees species were recently listed for protection under the Endangered Species Act.

The initiative identified 3,400 acres currently used as pollinator habitats on the 20 surveyed companies’ 74 properties. Forty-one percent of the companies include pollinator protection in their sustainability goals. These companies are actively managing pollinator habitats at 61 percent of their sites.

The national Pollinator Health Taskforce will integrate this data into its work, using it to encourage more companies to develop pollinator habitat goals.

General Motors’ Sue Kelsey, global biodiversity program manager, co-led the research project. Below are the simple ways she says companies can help protect pollinators:

  • Plant flowers, and make sure there’s a mixture of different kinds. Honeybees are on a matrix diet, which means they need variety in their food to thrive.
  • Plant on marginalized lands without chemical fertilizers—think about the lanes, roadsides, and unused fields on the property.
  • Focus on native plant species. Bugs, caterpillars and butterflies are naturally drawn to what’s local to their habitat.
  • Don’t confuse butterfly bush, which is an invasive species, with butterfly weed. The latter is also known as milkweed, which will help foster monarch butterfly growth.

GM is working on its own biodiversity commitment by developing Wildlife Habitat Council-certified programs at all of its manufacturing sites by 2020. The company’s Guangde Proving Ground in China features a 27,000-square-foot pollinator garden and wetland. GM’s Saginaw Metal Casting Operations hosts a garden that received the 2013 Pollinator Advocate Award from the Wildlife Habitat Council and the North American Pollinator Protection Campaign. Last year, the company added beehives to its rooftop garden project at its Detroit headquarters.

“Businesses are actively pursuing habitat improvements for pollinators, and we’re trying to challenge additional companies to become part of the process,” said Kelsey. “As more people and organizations add pollinator habitats, we can create a large quilt of connected patches of habitats for pollinators to thrive.”

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