What’s the buzz at the Covance office in Geneva, Switzerland? The team is celebrating its first honey harvest. Yes, you read that correctly—its first honey harvest. You see, in May of this year, Covance Geneva’s Three Rings (or R-ings) Committee—representing “Rethinking, Reducing and Recycling”—worked with a local startup to install three beehives on the roof of the company’s four-story building in downtown Geneva. The Committee hopes this initiative will send a strong message about the vital importance of sustainable development and the difference each of us can make.
“The Three Rings Committee is empowered to identify positive initiatives for the company that further environmental awareness and responsibility,” says Bertrand Jaton, Associate Director, Master Data Management and Business Reporting, Covance, Geneva, Switzerland. It was Bertrand who first suggested the idea of rooftop beehives to the Committee, as it had proven to be a successful initiative at his wife’s company, but the project was conducted by Vally Kordorouba, a former QA auditor who retired just after the beehives were installed. In order to recognize her dedication to this project, one beehive was dedicated in her name.
“Many people don’t realize that more than 70 percent of all fruits and vegetables need bees to provide cross-pollination,” explains Bertrand. “Unfortunately, the bee population continues to decline due to pesticides, parasites and monoculture (the cultivation or growth of a single crop, especially on agricultural or forest land). This can lead to a decline in the diversity of fruits and vegetables available to all of us. The Three Rings Committee is committed to raising awareness about this issue and contributing in our own small way to the solution.”
The 30-member Committee and their 600+colleagues at Covance Geneva are learning a great deal about bees and beekeeping, and it’s proving to be quite fascinating. Each of the three rooftop beehives serves as home to approximately 80,000 bees, so Covance is hosting some 240,000 bees. The hives are visible through the glass windows of an indoor hallway that circles the building. Each hive has only one queen bee whose role is to give birth to all of the other bees. There are 100 to 200 male bees per hive, while the remainder are working bees. Approximately half of the bees leave and return each day, collecting pollen to feed the baby bees. That pollen is then transformed into honey.
The first honey harvest at Covance Geneva occurred on August 8 and yielded 55 kilos of honey—enough to fill 380 small jars. While Covance will gift some of the honey to clients, most will be sold with all proceeds being donated to the Autisme Genève, a nonprofit organization supported by Covance Geneva for several years now. Future harvests may yield as many as 300 kilos per year, or about 2,400 jars. Two harvests are anticipated per year.
Based on numerous employee submissions, the honey has officially been named “Bee Real.” Employees also suggested the language for the label, which includes the slogan “Covance and Bees Working Together for a Greener and Sweeter Environment,” and accompanying text that reads “This honey, harvested on the roof of our laboratory, attests to the commitment of Covance toward the protection of bees, essential players pollinating flowers and trees.” Of course, the label will also feature the Covance logo and tagline, “Solutions Made Real.”
The Three Rings have created a series of ten posters about bees, designed to inform and engage the Covance Geneva team, which are now on display in the stairway of the four-story building. The poster series is part of a health and wellness campaign also created by the Three Rings that encourages people to use the stairs and to learn something new in the process. The previous poster series featured the history of Switzerland. In addition, Covance Geneva will host an annual bee workshop, where interested employees can learn more directly from the beekeeper.
Bertrand reports that the beekeeper is very impressed with the heartiness of the beehives, especially since Covance Geneva is located in an industrial area. The team shares in that excitement and has expressed great pride in its ability to sustain the rooftop beehives. Five employees who keep beehives at home are currently accompanying the beekeeper during his weekly visits, asking questions that will help them with their own hives.
“We have seen great interest from our team,” says Bertrand. “Covance is dedicated to diversity and bees are part of that diversity. No bees means much less diversity in our fruits and vegetables. We want to send a firm message that at Covance Geneva, we take that very seriously.”