To Bee, Or Not To Be

You may not think it, but the future of the human race depends almost as much on bees for their pollination as it does on our forests for its oxygen. After all, one in every three bites of food consumed worldwide comes from plants which depend on these little pollinators for a successful harvest.

To put it in economic terms, a report released by Schroders estimates that bees contribute around £130 billion to the global economy – about equal to the GDP of New Zealand!

The collapse of pollinator colonies, then, will have repercussions far more severe than a shortage of grapes for your wine. We are at risk of losing all the plants bees pollinate (according to Greenpeace, 70% of the crop species which feed 90% of the world), all the animals which eat these plants, and so on and so forth up the food chain. Ultimately, a world without bees would struggle – and fail – to feed the global population.

But there is hope.

Considering the broad scope of pollinator-dependant products – covering sectors from drug manufacturers to food retailers – corporates and individuals alike are increasingly aware of the strong vested interest we share in halting and reversing what is known as colony collapse disorder.

The MICE industry is no different.

#BeeSustain

Copenhagen Convention Burau and MCI staff engaging attendees to plant wild flowers at an event. Photograph: Copenhagen CVB

Copenhagen Convention Burau and MCI staff engaging attendees to plant wild flowers at an event. Photograph: Copenhagen CVB

Recognizing that they, as meeting industry professionals, have the opportunity (and responsibility!) to promote sustainability in the MICE industry, the Wonderful Copenhagen Convention Bureau launched #BeeSustain – an initiative highlighting the centrality of sustainability and these pollinators towards life on Earth.

The Copenhagen CSR project, Bybi, has released 4.5 million bees in Copenhagen in recent years and last spring the Bureau adopted two bee families in the city’s Botanic Garden to support the initiative!

#BeeSustain is also a fine example of a truly creative (and low cost) sustainability programme that has engaged over a million people online and face to face. It even went on to win the ICCA Best PR Award in 2014!

BeBee Campaign

In a similar vein, the Slovenian Convention Bureau has also assumed responsibility – and taken action – for the negative environmental impacts generated by the meeting industry. The Bureau launched the “BeBee campaign” – which aims to increase the number of bees by setting up colonies in schools – as a project to take practical steps towards a greener future.

What can we do?

In essence, issues regarding bees, agriculture, and pollination are deeply related to issues of habitat loss, global climate change, and (the lack of) responsible business practices. We need to understand that these little pollinators are holding up a giant mirror – one that should cause us to reflect on our choices as individuals and the way we do business as professionals.

Regardless of the size of an event, all it takes is a few simple actions to make a difference:

Copenhagen Convention Bureau and MCI promoting #BeeSustainable at own events. Photograph: Copenhagen CVB

Copenhagen Convention Bureau and MCI promoting #BeeSustainable at the European Sustainable Events Conference. Photograph: Copenhagen CVB

  • Inspire businesses, suppliers and event participants to plant flowers, herbs and fruit trees, building a legacy while making your destination bloom
  • Incorporate organic produce – food, flower decorations, fabrics, etc. Remember: bees can’t handle pesticides!
  • Support local bee-initiatives and other green projects
  • Engage and inform your event participants and community about the role bees play in our survival

Unless we adopt more sustainable practices the bees will collapse, and with them, so will we.

The writer is Pranav Sethaputra. Pranav is a Sustainability Consultant with leading global provider of engagement and activation solutions, MCI. You may email him at pranav.sethaputra@mci-group.com.

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