• Valuing Nature


The Association mellifera is developing a high impact social project around honey bees. Valuing Nature sponsored the creation of a bee colony and calculated the societal value created by the Association mellifera using the Total Impact Valuation methodology. Results showed that 60 CHF of societal is created per each honey jar on average.

(Executive summary available here, in french only)

Bees are critical to ensure the production of a significant part of the food we need every day, through their valuable service of pollination. According to a TEEB study, pollination services worldwide represent more than USD 150 billion and USD 213 million in Switzerland alone. Although there is a fair amount of uncertainty in these figures, the important role of wild and domestic bees is widely acknowledged.

A group of four friends, who are passionate about bees and the environment, created the non profit association Mellifera, which supports the proliferation of bee colonies in the canton of Vaud, in Switzerland, through a social project.

I decided to sponsor a colony through this association, as a way to create a social impact to complement my consulting activities. It is also a way to share my passion for sustainability and to lead the talk on changing our society step by step. And, who does not love honey? Expect a surprise for our next in person meeting (subject to availability ☺).

I decided to go a bit further and explore if my investment, mainly based on an emotional decision, was actually leading to a positive social impact. I used a methodology called “Total Impact Valuation” to measure the value of social, economic and natural capital created by Association mellifera’s activities.

Association mellifera’s colony sponsorship project is based on the following key activities:

  • More bees: create more bee colonies to support pollination in the region

  • Nature conservation at the beehives’ site: enhance the biodiversity of the 4’000 m2 of land on which the associations’ colonies are located (the plot of land received a distinction for its biodiversity from the NGO Pro Natura).

  • Educational activities: Educate around 300 to 500 children per year with in-class presentations and on site interactive visits of a honey bee colony.

  • Hive purchase: the hives are bought from an institution supporting disabled persons and providing them with opportunities to build beehives, amongst other activities.

  • Honey production: the bees produce honey, which is a nutritious (and delicious) product. This year, each colony produced around 25 kg of honey, a very exceptional year!

Although Association mellifera creates social impact through other activities in addition to their sponsorship projects (such as booths in local markets, awareness raising activities, etc.), only the above mentioned activities are integrated in this study. The Total Impact Valuation methodology builds upon impact pathways developed for each identified activity, identifying input, output, outcomes and finally impacts. These impact pathways are extremely important and valuable in order to analyze how social impact is created. They also serve to identify key parameters and bottlenecks which are important to spot to ensure the optimization of the activities’ impact. Economic valuation techniques are then used to value the different impacts created, which can be prioritized based on a comparison. The final economic valuation is often not as important as the impact pathways analysis. Economic results have a high impact of awareness raising and engagement with a wide audience.

The results of my analysis show a positive societal value created ranging from 3’100 to 9’050 CHF per colony per year, the low and high estimates (as a point of comparison, each beehive produced honey of a gross value of 750 CHF). This means that the jar of honey I might hand you is worth, on average, 60 CHF per jar in terms of positive societal impact.

It turned out that my investment in a new colony led to a return on investment of 1:1.5 to 1:4.5 (for each CHF invested, a return on investment of 1.5 to 4.5 CHF is created in terms of social impact). Not bad! The details of the results are presented in the figure below.

I doubt other investments deliver such positive societal impact (such as the ones related to coal energy). As a point of comparison, investment in water and sanitation projects in developing countries delivers on average, according to the WHO, a 1:4 social return on investment (ROI). In one of my studies, I found the ROI for water projects higher than 1:500 for countries such as Haiti. Investing in carbon compensation would generate a ROI of 1:1.5 to 12 on average depending on the project, according to a Gold Standard study (although it could be much higher).

Pollination and educational activities contribute the most to the total societal value of a colony. Furthermore, educational activities have the highest potential for additional value in the future; recommendations have been provided to improve this value by focusing on the key parameters identified.

Measuring the potential impact you are creating through an activity or an investment is critical to support efficient decision-making. I am proud that association mellifera delivers such societal value through its activities and am pleased to share a jar of honey with my partners and clients.

Association mellifera is open to new sponsorships for 2016, both individual and company sponsorships: visit http://www.association-mellifera.ch/ (and receive your own honey in exchange, and more!)

If you would like to learn more about the Total Impact Valuation methodology, drop me a line!

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