Atlanta corporations bank on beekeeping begetting better business

This is a look at the bee hives at Chick-fil-A's support center in southern Fulton County.

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This is a look at the bee hives at Chick-fil-A's support center in southern Fulton County.

There’s an increasing buzz around some of metro Atlanta’s largest corporate campuses.

Chick-fil-A, Delta, Marvel movie site Pinewood Studios, Georgia Power and AT&T all acquired bee boxes from Bee Downtown, a North Carolina-based sustainability and leadership development business. The sustainability component comes from the worsening problem of bee colony loss; a 2016 study funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture found that 44 percent of American beekeepers lost their colonies.

Bee Downtown will soon start its second season in Atlanta and plans to double its hives to 100 around the metro area. Company spokeswoman Sarah Sanguinetti wouldn’t say Friday where the new hives will be, but she said the first installation will come the last week of April.

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Sanguinetti said the person in charge of their hives was previously in charge of the University of Georgia’s research bee colonies. He comes by to check the corporate hives every six days from spring through fall and once a month during the winter. She said it takes a year before companies get honey.

Chick-fil-A has hives at its support center in southern Fulton County. A spokeswoman for the fast food chain said Friday they have no plans to use the honey it in their restaurants and are still determining what it will do with the honey.

Cox Enterprises, which owns The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, has its hives near Perimeter Mall, and Delta has boxes at Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport.

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The hives not only provide honey, which is usually given to employees, but they are used as teaching tools for company leaders.

“The honey is a sweet treat … but where it is very much a specialty and something we’re very proud of is the programming we offer,” Sanguinetti said.

Their program revolves around biomimicry, a field of research that studies what humans can learn from natural systems and animals, and how it can be used in business. For example, she said: “A beekeeper will step in and help if the hive needs help, but a beekeeper the majority of the time steps back and lets them do what they do best.”

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Sanguinetti declined to give a price or even a range of what this costs companies, saying it “drastically ranges” between businesses programs of different sizes.

Employees usually seek the classes, she said, adding that Delta opened 10 slots for a beekeeping leadership course and got 500 submissions.

She said it’s surprising how many leaders have bees in their lives, like Dan Cathy, the CEO of Chick-fil-A who is a beekeeper himself.

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