Impact is…tricky

Being an impact company is no easy task nowadays. As the saying goes about what the road to hell is paved with, an impact firm has to be very clear and intentional about what kind of impact it is making on our pale blue dot.

By way of example, our firm Beewise, offers a service that allows bees to live, thrive and pollinate successfully. That is our mission and everything we do revolves around executing towards this mission. Our success is irrevocably and directly correlated with bees’ survival, and the better they do, the better we do. This fundamental equation defines us, but it also poses some impact-related questions and considerations. In our case, Impact can be defined as ecological, biological or securing global food-supplies. However, some of these impact goals compete, or even paradoxically contradict each other.

Saving the bees is a noble moto, but we are a for-profit company so we have to tunnel our disruptive enabling technology to profitable waters. Here’s some context to better understand the challenge. Bees are dying, at alarming rates. Entire Bee species no longer exist, others are on the brink of extinction, and the ones who are abundant (Honey bees) are only so because we humans artificially keep their population at check. Due to pathogens, parasites and other challenges, honey-bee populations could drastically (and quickly) decline if left unattended and untreated.

If one is focused on ecological impact, the focus should be to save certain wild bee species that better co-exist with our flora. Co-evolution between plants and pollinators has been going on for millions of years and so not every bee fits every plant. On the other hand, a focus on biological impact will drive focus on saving as many bee species as possible to maintain the healthy balance between the variety of flora we have and their natural pollinators, globally. Last but not least, a focus on securing food-supplies requires a slightly different mindset.

There are currently over 7B people on this planet, and pollination-dependent food occupies a healthy portion of our diet. There are certain crops that would yield only 10% of their fruit without pollination, while others would yield 90%. Humans could survive without pollination-dependent foods; but the world would not be the same, in any way. I am not here to draw a dystopian or post-apocalyptic world; there are plenty of pieces that go into detail about a world without bees. My focus is to draw the distinction between the different types of impact, and how they compete. If global food supply is what we care about, then we must focus exclusively on honey-bees. Honey-bees are by far the most effective, efficient and diverse pollinator on the planet. It pollinates as much as all the other pollinators, combined. It is the only bee that is managed, in colonies, and at scale. They are the only cost-effective vehicle we humans have to pollinate enough food for the growing global population. The availability of pollination-dependent foods, at an affordable cost, to the rest of the world is what helps get people out of malnutrition, poverty and inequality.

Food is at the base of the Maslowian hierarchy, and food affordability, accessibility and equality is where our world is striving for a better tomorrow. This is the impact we chose to focus on; even if it means that other types of impact (ecological, biological) get neglected. For now.

To Bee or Not To Be