’Wild bee populations are declining due to habitat loss and climate change – this year has been particularly challenging for them,’ says head of workplace services 

Back in October 2023, Zurich revealed that 100,000 honeybees had moved into a purpose-built enclosure on the roof terrace of its Unity Place in Swindon. 

Bees on flower

In addition to this, four bird boxes were installed to boost the number of Swifts, a bird from the family of apodidae in the area. 

The insurer also gave its employees the chance to name two queen bees, with the winners receiving two of the first jars of honey produced by the colony. 

60 seconds with Louise Sheppard

Louise Sheppard_Zurich

Louise Sheppard

Back in November 2019, a fellow beekeeper and former Zurich employee Geoff Cox suggested keeping bees at the insurer’s Farnborough office.

At the time, Zurich was one of the first companies in this area to do something like this.

Therefore, as soon as plans were put in place for a new office in Swindon, the opportunity to do the same thing there was jumped on.

Louise Sheppard, head of workplace services at Zurich UK, told Insurance Times: “We also thought it would be a great opportunity to make use of an underutilised space in a positive environmental way.”

The insurer’s office in Swindon has been designed to rank among the top 10% of commercial buildings for sustainability in the UK.

Therefore, installing a purpose-built bee enclosure was a “nice addition to the office” as well as helping the insurer be “sustainable and environmentally friendly”, Sheppard explained.

Sheppard added: “People often don’t realise how important bees are, so we’re using this as an opportunity to run teach-in sessions so that Zurich employees can learn about how important they are for our ecosystem.

“We hope they will learn something about bees and tell their family and friends.”

While the bees are settling into their new home on the roof terrace of Unity Place and meeting the insurer’s employees, Cox is keeping a regular eye on the colonies and helping to maintain the enclosure.

Sheppard added: “It’s fun to be able to blend my passion outside of work with my profession.

“We hope to get our first production of honey in Spring 2024. It will be fun to see the first batches of honey being served in our cafeteria and watching employees enjoy it on their cereal and toast.

”People will also be able to buy jars of honey, with all proceeds going to Zurich Community Trust.”