Bees may be small, but they are one of the hottest topics in sustainability today. And rightly so, as pollinators are necessary for about 80 percent of all crops used for food worldwide. Realizing the impact of disappearing bees on their bottom line, dozens of companies have joined the fight to educate and activate consumers on the plight of the bee, including Häagen-Dazs, Whole Foods and Burt’s Bees. Now a new company initiative seeks to move beyond consumer engagement, going straight to the source to help bees.

General Mills, no stranger in the fight to protect bees, has announced a new effort to further conserve the habitats of pollinators. General Mills’ Honey Nut Cheerios brand has partnered with nonprofit Xerces Society for a new commitment to house 3,300 total acres of dedicated pollinator habitats on farms in its supply chain. The initiative builds upon “large-scale habitat projects that have already been planted or are currently underway on farms supplying ingredients for its Muir Glen, Cascadian Farm, LÄRABAR and Annie’s brands.”  General Mills cites this as “one of the largest commitments to pollinator conservation by a company” and expects to reach the goal of 3,300 acres by 2020. The effort also comes on the heels of the consumer-facing “Bring Back the Bees” campaign launched by Honey Nut Cheerios in Canada earlier this year.

Although consumer education is a major aspect of moving the issue of colony collapse disorder into the spotlight, this initiative focuses on addressing the problem at the source – protecting the habitats bees need to survive. And according to Dr. Marla Spivak, professor and entomology and bee researcher at the University of Minnesota, this is an important aspect, “The best way to really help bees is to provide them really good nutrition and places where they can forage and nesting sites where they can live.” And helping bees helps General Mills – as the company notes, 30 percent of all ingredients grown for use in its products rely on pollination.

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