How bees revived employee engagement at the Embassy of Canada to the Netherlands

The Embassy of Canada to the Netherlands serves to promote and protect the interests of Canada and Canadians in the Netherlands. The embassy has a strong commitment to environmental sustainability and, like any workplace, a desire to nurture employee engagement.

The need to bridge these two goals ultimately led the team to bring an urban beekeeping project to their rooftop.

The mission

While the embassy mainly focuses on diplomatic relations, supporting Canadian businesses and trade, promoting cultural and educational exchanges, and providing consular services to Canadians abroad, it also addresses international issues, such as environmental sustainability.

After remote work due to the pandemic, the embassy was looking to involve its returning team in a project that could be held outdoors, in the fresh air, but also hold great social and environmental meaning.

The team was aware that the Embassy of Canada in Washington, D.C. had a bee program and decided that it would be an excellent fit for their own building.

“The urban beekeeping program served as a notable entry point to get people together again. Being on the roof with each other was a stepping-stone to much more as it also generated a great deal of enthusiasm among the members of the International Greening Network which brings together Embassies and International Organisation as part of The Hague Climate Agreement.”
– Julie Normand, Counsellor and Consul for the Embassy of Canada to the Netherlands

The solution

Employee engagement

The embassy installed rooftop honey bee hives and welcomes a local beekeeper every three weeks for hive care and environmental education. This serves as a great opportunity to learn about the beekeeping process, pollinators and regional biodiversity, as well as spark conversations about nature and sustainability. Employees are informed in advance of the purpose for the visit and can choose to participate.

These visits are always attended by a dozen or more employees, curious to discover what the beekeeper will be working on, and interacting by asking many questions.

“The bees have become a part of the embassy family – truly!”
– Letty Smit, Common Services Assistant, Embassy of Canada to the Netherlands

Networking and educational opportunities

The embassy hosts two annual workshops led by the beekeeper to give the team a chance to connect and expand their environmental awareness. The honey harvesting workshop has proven to be very popular among the team.

Honey is harvested and bottled into small jars and given as gifts and signs of appreciation to the embassy’s contacts and partners.

“The honey is a small token, but people really appreciate it. There’s something bigger behind it. People’s faces light up, they ask questions, and it gets them excited to do the same in their offices.”
– Julie Normand, Counsellor and Consul for the Embassy of Canada to the Netherlands

The results

The whole team has enthusiastically embraced the bee program. Flowers now surround the beehives providing the bees with more food resources. These steps are documented and shared on social media to bring visibility to the initiative.

Signage has been added to the entrance of the embassy to ensure all visitors learn about the program, and various projects are in the works to further involve the community with urban beekeeping and the embassy’s larger sustainability strategy.

A competition was held to choose the queen’s name (Queen Bee-atrix). A second contest invited local design students to submit a label for the honey jars.

The embassy hopes to repeat this with an art competition to eventually create a mural surrounding the hives.

Employee engagement

  • Attendance on the roof never wavered and employees look forward to the interactions with the beekeeper.
  • Employees have started generating their own ideas to take the initiative even further.
  • Employee engagement has soared. Not only has this initiative contributed to environmental education, it has given employees a moment out of the office to connect with nature and each other, increasing team morale.

Sustainability strategy

  • Through employee events, educational signage, social media posts, and gifted honey jars, the embassy plays a role in spreading environmental education.
  • Employees were inspired to plant a pollinator garden beside the hives, creating a new urban green space on the roof.
  • Networking and marketing initiatives create an opportunity to discuss the embassy’s broader sustainability strategy.

Community involvement

  • Educational signage in the public area creates positive interactions, helps employees feel more involved in the program, and showcases the embassy’s commitment to sustainability.
  • Photos snapped during the beekeeper visits and workshops are transformed into engaging social media content.
  • Enthusiasm for the beekeeping program has spread through the network of embassies and international organizations.

    Employees are very enthusiastic about the initiative. They speak about it positively within the team. Every activity has a good turnout. There is genuine interest in the program.

    – Julie Normand, Counsellor and Consul for the Embassy of Canada to the Netherlands

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