The Butterfly and Your Bottom Line

By Laurie Davies Adams, President and CEO of Pollinator Partnership

It’s good business and good policy to run our companies more sustainably. It helps the environment and pleases customers, employees and shareholders. For many companies this means measuring everything and reporting key performance indicators, or KPIs, for such things as carbon footprint, energy use, supply chain waste and more. That’s great. Keep doing this and add more indicators.

Smart corporate conservation helps to reduce waste and pollution, operating expenses and strategic materials sourcing. It encourages innovation, and it often results in a real competitive edge. At the same time, numerous global reporting schemes demand transparency on these efforts. While this pressure is helpful, it is not necessarily hopeful. It may reduce the percentages of carbon emissions and other wasteful practices, and it may increase overall social justice. But the results, the percentages and equations will be hard to feel, and the visible impacts of this change may be imperceptible to most people, as temperatures and sea levels continue to rise.

But I’d like to suggest a factor that floats above all this bureaucracy.

Consider the butterfly.

Monarch Butterfly, photo by Amber Barnes

Nearly every business, be it in a skyscraper, corporate campus or corner building, has (or should have) some greenspace where employees can gather. It might be a courtyard or a rooftop or a plaza surrounded by planters. The simple step of putting pollinator-friendly plants – milkweed, sunflowers, coneflowers, for instance -- in these areas automatically (trust me) brings butterflies, hummingbirds and bees along to do their thing.

Pollinator-friendly plantings are a growing reality in the landscapes of homes, farms, schools, churches, temples, synagogues and corporations throughout North America. These habitats promote the interactions between butterflies, bees, birds and plants that support 1 in every 3 of the bites of food that we eat. Pollinators bring us stable ecosystems, food for wildlife, and increased carbon sequestration. They remind us that an opportunity to connect with a butterfly is something deeply primal in the human spirit – it encapsulates the beauty and transcendence of nature.

It’s good for the butterflies, it’s good for the environment, and it’s good for the company. It costs next to nothing and it makes everyone feel good.

Pollinator Partnership is a conservation nonprofit that works with many corporations, one of whom is a good steward and surveys itself and its suppliers on multiple fronts. In a recent conversation, the sustainability director told me that “Nothing gets our employees more in touch with the importance of good sustainability practices than time spent in our pollinator garden. Frankly, I have a hard time getting them to come back inside. They see a butterfly on the corporate campus, and a lot of the things we do for sustainability suddenly become tangible for them.” It is that emotional and tangible response that comes from an interaction with nature that will help bring hope as we also pay attention to spread sheets and KPI’s. Biodiversity improvements are possible, and necessary, as we combat climate change and stabilize global warming.

The sight of a butterfly foraging gives us an optimistic lift as we sort out the calculus and behaviors needed for a stable and sustainable future. Measuring and reporting Sustainability KPIs is critical right now, but so is the creation and maintenance of habitat where pollinators and plants are partnering. Pollinators bring an immediate gift that people crave – hope in our future, and confidence in our ability to be true stewards of the earth.

Let the butterfly lead the way.

Published 06/18/19