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Why This Business School Put Bees On The Roof

The 120,000 bees living at BI Norwegian Business School are just the first step in boosting green infrastructure and biodiversity
  • The huge roof of BI Norwegian in Oslo supports trees, flowers, and beehives
  • Green infrastructure is important to promoting sustainability in schools
  • Honey produced by the bees is gifted to staff and guests

Towards the end of 2019, Inge Jan Henjesand, the President of BI Norwegian Business School, welcomed the President of Slovenia and The King of Norway to an event on pollination, green infrastructure, and citizen science. But most importantly, bees.

The exhibition was designed to provide information on beekeeping and the science of pollination while highlighting the benefits of green infrastructure and how institutions, such as universities, can help solve urban and climatic challenges by building with nature, rather than at nature’s expense.

Referring to climate change, Henjesand says, “Facing the biggest challenge the world has ever seen, BI has worked to integrate sustainability into our strategy and operations. This means incorporating sustainable thinking into our business education programmes and building environmentally friendly campuses across Norway.  Our bees are influencers. A bee-friendly city is a healthier and better city to live in.”

As Henjesand says, sustainability is incorporated into their programmes, including their recently launched MSc in Sustainable Finance to prepare students for the rise in importance of sustainability in business, but why is this school talking about bees so much?

BI’s Oslo campus roof is actually home to two beehives which house around 120,000 bees in total. In any other scenario, this might warrant a call to a pest removal expert, but not for this business school – their hives were installed deliberately as part of a project by their technical manager, and now bee-keeper, Tommy Wensås.

He wanted a place to keep the bees and chose the roof as it is large enough to support trees, plants, and flowers. The most important aspect is the bees’ impact on the environment and sustainability, contributing to the pollination of plants and taking care of the surrounding natural area. The honey produced by the hives is also jarred and labelled with the school’s logo before being given away to faculty and guests for free.

When Wensås is maintaining the bees and their hives, he takes guests with him. This is a learning opportunity as many hold preconceived notions of bees as annoying insects but he helps them learn that they are an important part of our planet’s ecosystem. In fact, our small black-and-yellow-striped friends are responsible for pollinating 70% of the crops which feed most of the global population. Without them, we’d struggle to feed everyone.

BI are also imagining how else their huge roof – which is the size of 2.7 football pitches – can be restructured to contribute to green infrastructure and increased biodiversity. The bees were just the first step.

Wenche Dahl, the director of facilities at BI, believes it is very important for universities and business schools to get involved with green infrastructure. Dahl says, “We all have a responsibility to look after the world which is something higher institutions preach to their students. However, they have to make sure they put into practice what they are teaching. If students are taught about corporate social responsibility and the importance of being environmentally friendly, but do not see their institution practicing it themselves, then they lose credibility. Universities need to act as role models for their students.”

BI’s dedication to environmentally-friendly actions are not only restricted to their Oslo campus. When opening their smaller campuses at Stavanger and Trondheim, they installed roof top green spaces with plants and solar panels. They are hoping that the finished product on the Oslo campus roof will follow the same concept, just on a much larger scale.

The buildings at the Stavanger and Trondheim campuses produce most of the energy they need in a renewable way with more than 80% of their energy coming from renewable sources. The buildings incorporate cooling and heating mechanisms which utilise the nearby seawater, while the Oslo campus uses a geothermal heating and cooling system thanks to a local energy station. This is a reflection of the country’s approach towards renewable energy as more than 97% of the electricity produced in Norway comes from a renewable energy source.

In recent years, many companies have dedicated themselves to improving sustainability and being environmentally-friendly. Elon Musk’s Tesla is famous for its increasingly-popular electric vehicles which produce no carbon emissions, search engine Ecosia donates at least 80% of its profits to tree-planting projects to combat deforestation, sort of like an eco-friendly Google, and Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos plans to donate $1billion a year to fight climate change.

However, Wensås believes all of us can contribute when it comes to looking after our planet, and considers bees a great symbol for sustainability. He says, “Bees change roles throughout their lives when necessary as everything is about taking care of the queen and their hive. They live to maintain the functionality and sustainability of their hive. If the hive collapses, the bees die. This is how we should be viewing our planet; we need to work to maintain the sustainability of our planet because if the planet dies, so do we.”

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