The Business of Bees

An introduction to Zalando’s tiniest employees: 110,000 of them

From our switch to green energy at all our German sites, to our collaboration with Fashion for Good, Zalando’s commitment to a greener, more responsible industry is bigger than ever. Some great initiatives, however, come in smaller packages. In this case: bees.

Zalando locations in Erfurt and Berlin are home to approximately 110,000 bees.

On May 20, nature-lovers celebrated World Bee Day, and here at Zalando, we’re more than happy to salute our diligent neighbors. Zalando is home to approximately 110,000 bees. Thousands of bees are based at our fulfillment center at Erfurt, where resident beekeeper and safety manager, Thomas Wagner makes sure the hives are kept buzzing. “Honeybees, wild bees, and other insects ensure the survival and diversity of our flora. Therefore, it is also my personal mission to give them the living space necessary to do their job,” says Thomas.

The Erfurt site is also home to bird-nesting boxes and an insect hotel. Another 40-50,000 bees live in Berlin, depending on the season. Here, product manager and beekeeper, Ines Raub, ensures they’re well looked after, and able to carry out their important tasks, one of which is assisting in the reproduction of 80% of plants and agricultural crops. Think of that when you’re tucking into this season’s asparagus!

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At our Berlin office on Zeughofstraße, beekeeper, Ines Raub makes sure our miniature colleagues are happy.
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Keeping the bees buzzing at the Zalando Fulfillment Center in Erfurt is security manager and beekeeper, Thomas Wagner.

Seeing Zalando’s corporate engagement, Ines decided to reach out and offer her skills as a beekeeper. Five minutes later, she received a positive response. And we aren’t alone in welcoming six-legged co-workers to the team. It’s a trend that’s being picked up by progressive companies and award-winning startups worldwide to boost morale, help the environment, and raise awareness. Nearly half of Germany’s 582 types of bee are endangered, with a 70% drop in the population since 1991.

Urban initiatives such as this one hope to help, but the benefits run both ways says Ines. “Nature in the working environment can clear your head and give you space to breathe. More than that, employees have the chance to connect beyond meetings and projects. Can you imagine how many conversations I’ve had about the ‘why’ of my beekeeping activities?”

Ines is quick to inform any curious minds interested in the destination of the honey that she always puts the bees at the front of the line. “I follow a sustainable way of beekeeping, which focuses on enabling the most natural behaviour possible for the bees. This means they use their honey as nature intended: to see them through the winter. If they’ve been very busy, I can sometimes take two or three kilos of honey, which I distribute between myself and other helpers. Call it a perk of the profession!”

When asked how the bees are enjoying their new home on a rooftop just south of the Spree, Ines assured us they were flying. “They love it. Both hives made it through the winter and are evolving better than expected right now. I'm really thrilled.”

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