Coca-Cola employees in a commercial product supply (CPS) plant in Signes, France, have taken the "I’d like to buy the world a Coke" lyrics to heart are are literally growing "apple trees and honey bees" to sustain the local environment.
The company's products are made in many beautiful parts of our world, and Signes in the Côte d'Azur area of France is no exception, with its breathtaking mountain scenery, forests and orchards. The area extends to more than 240 hectares and employs around 2,000 people in a variety of industries.
To gauge the impact of common pollutants, from road traffic, agriculture and industry, on the biodiversity of the region, in November 2012, the site began a partnership project with three other local companies, collectively called GEPs, in a biodiversity monitoring study of bees.
Up to 20 bee hives and 100,000 bees were installed across the four businesses. The hives and bees are surveyed with three times per year to measure the toxicology of the ecosystem (water, air and ground). Interestingly, the bees chosen were of a lesser aggressive variety and minimized any risk to employees being stung at work!
So why bees?
The bee is very sensitive to pollutants like waste and heavy metals. Honeybees are exposed to numerous pollutants during their foraging activities; their body hair can easily retain atmospheric residue, and they can be contaminated via food sources, when gathering pollen and nectar from flowers or through water. They also have a positive impact on biodiversity through pollination.
The first inspection to check the health of the bees was very encouraging, with each hive having at least 15KG of honey in reserve. The bees require regular follow-up via electronic sensors on the hives and in the laboratory.
The results of the monitoring has proved very encouraging with no direct environmental impact of the industrial activity on the area. In fact, the results were deemed so low that they have become the national reference sample for bee monitoring in France.
In addition, the innovative launch of biomonitoring of bees in the Signes study, is now increasingly being used, in other areas of France and Europe, after episodes of pollution.
The project contributes to the preservation of bees. The local community are invited to visit the bees and learn how important they are to our environment and how to support their protection and of course taste their wonderful honey. And Coca-Cola colleagues in the area frequently enjoy the honey their resident bees are producing.
Dr. Jean-Denis Malgras, plant manager, said, ‘It is very reassuring to us that our industry has no direct environmental impact. We are very proud of our honeybees, who have encouraged more studies in France and Europe and have even set a national reference sample for bee monitoring. This project is a wonderful way of partnering with other businesses in our area to safeguard our environment in this beautiful region of France."