A Beeline for Sustainability 

At Johnson Controls we’ve been busy bees doing our utmost for the environment for decades. As the global leader for smart, healthy, and sustainable buildings and a pioneer in the building space for more than 135 years, we have been continuously driving initiatives and developing technologies that help both our organization and customers consume less energy, conserve resources, and identify pathways to achieving healthy, net zero carbon communities.

More recently, we’ve broadened our environmental and sustainability activities even further, to literally work alongside a group of nature’s own environmental specialists, whose ‘technology’ isn’t a million miles from ours.

In June, Johnson Controls became a bee sponsor, providing a new home for a bee colony on its green company grounds in the west of Ratingen, Germany. The hive at our headquarters for Continental Europe is the first of many, as we plan to replicate this initiative across all our buildings throughout Germany.

The sponsorship is the brainchild of Wolfgang Zell from the Salubria apiary and honey factory.

“Bees are enormously important for our ecosystem and yet their habitat is becoming smaller and smaller,” said Zell. “That’s why we have made it our mission to increase the number of bee colonies and are proud to have found a sponsor in Johnson Controls, which will make its green spaces available to our colonies at other locations in Germany.”

Beemaster Wolfgang Zell from Salubria inspects a honeycomb from the bee colony located on the rooftop of Johnson Controls’ headquarters for Continental Europe in Ratingen, Germany.

Katie McGinty, vice president and chief sustainability and external relations officer, added: “This really is a super-important initiative for us. It shows a new level of commitment to the environment to ensure we protect our planet for future generations. We’re adding another dimension to our existing sustainability drive by taking direct action to preserve the habitat of one of the most important creatures in nature. We are proud that our colleagues in Germany have taken the lead on this and look forward to rolling it out across the country.”

In some ways, locating beehives at our sites can be seen as a kind of ‘strategic partnership’ with bees. Our approaches to ‘buildings’ are already aligned. Like Johnson Controls, these industrious insects are proven experts when it comes to perfecting air conditioning technology. A beehive has a sophisticated cooling and heating mechanism, while Johnson Controls develops air conditioning and innovative technology solutions for temperature-sensitive rooms and buildings. Now we are proving that it is also possible to share a living space with our ‘colleagues from the beehive’.

Through pollination, bees support the growth of trees, flowers and other plants that provide food and shelter for creatures large and small. Their importance to the ecosystem cannot be overstated. A quote often attributed to Albert Einstein says: “If the bee disappears from the face of the earth, man has only four years to live.”

The vast majority of plants we need for food rely on pollination, especially by bees – more than 90 per cent of the leading global crop types rely on pollination. This means bees are responsible for most of the food we eat. Friends of the Earth also notes that bees pollinate around 80 per cent of wildflowers in Europe, and so are largely responsible for the beauty of our countryside.

In recent years, however, the bee population has come under threat from loss of habitat and diminishing food sources due to things such as urban development, intensive farming, the use of pesticides and the effects of climate change. The sponsoring of a beehive initiative will go some way to addressing this threat.

Currently, around 10,000 bees inhabit the hive. Within four weeks, the colony will have doubled in size to about 25,000 bees, and after another four weeks it will have increased to its full size of 40,000 bees. The bees then fly within a radius of one to four kilometres around the hive to plants that are currently in bloom, thus ensuring those plants can reproduce. Once the flowering period is over, scout bees look for new plants that are flowering, which then become the focus of the entire hive.

“Bees support the growth of trees, flowers and other plants that provide food and shelter for creatures large and small. Together with Salubria, we are gradually planning to equip all our sites throughout Germany with beehives. We have installed the first hive at our Continental Europe Headquarters in Ratingen,” says Reinhold van Ackeren, Director Strategy, Marketing & Business Development Germany at Johnson Controls.

The bee sponsorship further demonstrates our leading position in environmental and sustainability programs and initiatives. At the European level, Johnson Controls has been effectively supporting the EU’s world-leading ambition to become carbon neutral by 2050. The European Commission has committed to at least 55 per cent cuts in greenhouse gas emissions (from 1990 levels) by 2030 under the European Green Deal.

Decarbonizing Europe’s building stock through the European Commission’s Energy Performance of Buildings Directive has a crucial role to play in this effort, as buildings account for almost 40 per cent of global CO2 emissions. Our OpenBlue digital platform is playing a big part in this respect, since it lowers the carbon footprint of buildings by optimizing energy use and improving efficiency.

OpenBlue is also central to achieving our own net zero targets. Johnson Controls was among the first industrial companies to disclose its carbon emissions and commit to reducing them. Since 2002, we have made tremendous progress, cutting our own energy and emissions intensity by more than 70 per cent. The company has set a target to reach net zero CO2 emissions by 2040 – 10 years earlier than the United Nations calls for in the Paris Climate Agreement.

Such ambition illustrates the lengths we are going to in order to protect and preserve our planet. And through the bee sponsorship, we are showing it doesn’t stop there. There is always more we can do – at the corporate level and as individuals.

Like Johnson Controls, anyone who can provide an insect-friendly area such as green spaces, meadows or even forest edges can become a bee sponsor. For their lodging, sponsors receive a delicious thank you gift – a share of the honey yield from the bee colony.

To get involved with bees and find out more information about bee sponsorship, visit www.salubria.de.

A Beeline for Sustainability

About Johnson Controls

At Johnson Controls, we’ve been making buildings smarter since 1885, and our capabilities, depth of innovation experience, and global reach have been growing ever since. Today, we offer the world’s largest portfolio of building products, technologies, software, and services; we put that portfolio to work to transform the environments where people live, work, learn, and play.