Employees take Cisco’s corporate culture of environmental and social responsibility seriously. Some so seriously that they don protective gear and venture to the rooftops of Cisco office buildings in France and the United Kingdom to cultivate a greener world.
These Cisco employees are not modern day superheroes, but rookie beekeepers, intent on cultivating colonies of endangered bees to pollinate wild plants and food crops.
The European beekeeping project illustrates how people can use human and technology networks to multiply the positive impact of something they are passionate about.
Employees at Cisco’s Paris office first learned that bee populations are declining during their monthly environmental presentation in May 2009. Technical Marketing Engineer Gilles Clugnac explained that, without cross-pollination by bees, many plants—including food crops—would die off.
According to the United Nations, bees pollinate more than 70 of the top 100 crops that provide 90 percent of the world’s food. But recently the bee population has declined worldwide, whether due to food source loss, stress, mites, fungus or the effects of pesticides.
Inspired by Clugnac’s presentation, 17 employees formed a new Cisco network –- Connected Bees. They took beekeeping training; ordered equipment, three beehives, and 180,000 90,000 bees; and harvested 220 pounds of gold-medal-winning honey in their first season.
Like Cisco’s other corporate social responsibility efforts, the impact of the Paris beekeeping project was multiplied through both human and technology networks.
First, the human networks. Cisco employees in Reading, outside London, and Amsterdam heard the buzz about Connected Bees in Paris and followed suit. At the Green Park office complex in Reading (UK), 11 Cisco employees set up hives in the spring of 2011 and harvested their first 20 jars of honey in September. They are encouraging other businesses in the complex to start colonies, too, and envision “a hive on every roof on every building in Green Park.” Forty Cisco employees in Amsterdam will set up their hives in 2012 after months of careful planning and training. As with the Paris and Reading groups the planning will also ensure that they comply with local authority, landlord and safety requirements and regulations.
Back in Paris, the Connected Bees have raised 6,000 Euros through honey sales to support Man and the Environment, a non-governmental organization that conducts biodiversity preservation and health initiatives for disadvantaged people in Madagascar.
Second, the technology networks. As you would expect from a group of engineers, the Cisco beekeepers have developed technology tools that both improve the health and well-being of the bees and increase scientific knowledge about them.
Paris beekeepers installed a Cisco Borderless Networks solution so they can monitor the hive interiors with temperature and humidity sensors. They also installed and maintain a Cisco video surveillance solution and some IP sensors to help the French national science foundation, CNRS, weigh the hives twice a day and monitor the evolution of beehives in urban conditions over time. The Green Park group in Reading will soon install a hive camera and link it to the Cisco network, and the Amsterdam site plans a similar setup to help CNRS collect more data.
The beekeeping project illustrates how good things can happen when employees and the company they work for share the same values and act on them.
Tell us about your workplace. How does the corporate culture support a volunteer project that benefits people, communities, or the planet?