Investing in Climate Change

Pollinator Risk Assessment: Engaged Shareholders Push Corporations to Change


For years, scientists, researchers, and environmentalists have been watching the decline of honeybee populations with increasing concern. Bees and other pollinators play a critical role both in our ecosystem and in food production, but pesticide exposure has put them under serious and increasing threat. This is why pollinator risk assessment is so important for corporations to consider.

The chemicals within certain commonly applied pesticides, including neonicotinoids, impair bees’ ability to function and can even prove lethal. Not only does that damage honey production, it also impacts the role bees play in agriculture and wild food systems.

Penn State research found that 91% of pollen samples were contaminated with multiple pesticides, which suggests this threat doesn’t stop at bees. All pollinators are affected by toxic pesticides, and studies point to a direct link between population declines and buildup of toxicity from these chemicals within hives.

Government Policies Are Beginning to Protect Pollinators

If there’s any silver lining, it’s that pollinator risk assessment is now considered essential by many organizations, including government agencies that can regulate companies producing harmful products.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) started to respond to the need to protect pollinators in 2017, when it created its Policy Mitigating Acute Risk to Bees from Pesticide Products. This policy protects bees from agricultural pesticide spray “while the bees are under contract to provide pollination services.”

In addition to EPA involvement, some organizations within the private sector are pushing companies that supply harmful pesticides to change. Firms like Trillium Asset Management are both engaging with corporations and empowering individual shareholders to act. Through their efforts, they’re making progress in reducing the sale of products containing chemicals that harm bees and other important pollinators.

Wealth Managers and Engaged Shareholders Push for Further Change

Specifically, Trillium has shined a light on companies like Home Depot and General Mills, both of which previously didn’t consider pollinator risk assessment as a critical part of their supply chain management.

Trillium’s efforts eventually led Home Depot to begin phasing out pollinator-harming pesticides from its product lines. As Trillium reports, “Home Depot announced that it has removed neonicotinoid pesticides from 80% of its flowering plants and has a goal to complete its phase-out in plants by 2018.”

In the case of General Mills, Trillium worked with As You Sow and Clean Yield Asset Management to encourage the company to update its policies and practices to better adhere to strategies provided by the 2015 White House Pollinator Health Task Force.

Investors Can Use Pollinator Risk Assessment to Protect Our Environment

In addition to pushing companies to take action, Trillium is working to give shareholders the information they need to allocate their investments in an environmentally responsible way. The asset manager pushed Tractor Supply Company’s Governance Committee of the Board of Directors to perform a pollinator risk assessment of the home-improvement and gardening retailer’s environmental protection policies and practices by September 2018.

The goal, according Trillium, is to evaluate whether or not Tractor Supply’s current practices and sales of neonicotinoid-containing products “are in the best interests of the company, its consumers, and its shareholders.” The results are slated to be published in Tractor Supply’s next Social Responsibility report, allowing shareholders to make informed decisions about whether or not they will continue to support a company that may contribute to the harming of pollinator populations.

The efforts of organizations like these will continue to be essential to secure pollinator risk assessments of relevant products, and their work to stop the use neonicotinoids goes even further to protect pollinators and the future of food systems.

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