Marketing for Good. Pollinating London Together

gigcmo
22/12/2021

For all the dreadful happenings in the last two years, the pandemic and other events have brought much-needed attention to certain aspects of our lives. Health, the environment, and how we live have all been reflected upon and action taken in several respects. 

In the City of London, one way environmental health is gaining support is from the PollinatingLondonTogether initiative, which began with the Worshipful Company of Wax Chandlers Livery Company in 2020. 

We spoke to Board Member and current Master of the Worshipful Company of Wax Chandlers, Anthony Bickmore, to understand why pollinators are now getting some of the marketing support they deserve and why that's important for our collective health. 

Where did the idea for Pollinating London come from?

Years ago, people suggested I should belong to a City Livery Company. As I was an amateur beekeeper, the Worshipful Company of Wax Chandlers, which is concerned with beeswax and, consequently, the health of the honey bee, seemed like a good fit. 

The livery's original trade is beeswax, especially candles, but understanding the health of the bee led to a greater interest in pollinators, their role in our world, and sustainability as a whole. During my year as Master, I wanted to take that interest and do something positive to promote pollinator wellbeing. 

I was smitten with the idea of the importance of but the decline in pollinators in general. I thought many people, myself included, at one point, probably weren't aware of the scale of the issue or what to do about it. It needed more marketing and communication.

How are you planning to market the cause of the honey bee?

Although the interest of the livery is the honey bee, it's far from the only pollinator, and in broad terms, what's good for honey bees is good for most pollinators. Pollinators, in general, are essential for the health of our natural ecosystems, so we wanted to do something that had an impact on pollinator wellbeing as a whole.

While the Wax Chandlers is a historic livery company, it is small. So, we decided that if the idea was going to have an impact, it needed to work across the livery companies to help people engage with the concept. We started in 2020 to address the shortage of pollinators by improving green spaces to allow them to flourish and return. Other Livery companies, including the Gardeners, Distillers and Information Technologists, joined us from the outset.

We are targeting other livery companies because they have a reach of around 45,000 people collectively, all with different levels of influence, knowledge and skill. We have also focused our initial efforts on London, where there are about 35 ha of green spaces - London is a remarkably green city in the big scheme of things.

What are you doing to support pollinators in the City of London so far?

We are marketing the cause of pollinators and ways we can make a difference in several ways, and we hope to do more across a wider area in the future. The great thing is that anyone can contribute, whether they have a window box or a garden at home, or even if they visit a local park. Some of the ways we're doing this are:

Building knowledge 

In the first year, we built an IT interface. We generated stories and video clips from specialists at the Eden Project, architects, ministers, and other experts, all talking about the importance of green space in our cities.

Audits of green spaces

We have started doing audits of green spaces to monitor the number of pollinators and see how those areas can be subtly enhanced to support them. 

For example, we did one in the church's gardens in the Ward of Cheap, and then we approached St Paul's Cathedral because the Wax Chandlers have been supplying them with candles for more than 600 years, and they were very encouraging. 

Next, we approached the Tower of London. They were particularly thrilled as they are planning to  introduce wildflowers in the planted moat as a permanent monument to Her Majesty The Queen and her Platinum Jubilee next year. They are also hoping to encourage schools across the country  to grow wildflower gardens for the occasion and need help configuring the seed mix.

Citizen science 

We also have been working with a  Citizen Science initiative, which looks to the public to help us gather important data. There's an app called FIT Count for the UK Pollinator Monitoring Scheme, which you can download for free. The idea is that you select a small space and monitor the number of insects that visit a sample square for a ten minute period. 

It's a lovely thing to do with children or friends or on your own and is a really helpful level of scientific data to support the UK Centre for Ecology & Hydrology. What's exciting is that individuals can contribute on a scale that scientists would never be able to on their own. That makes a difference.

Companies outreach

We organised a formal launch at the Mansion House with Livery Companies and their associated organisations to raise awareness, sponsor initiatives and audits, and raise funds for projects. We've had a lot of support so far, including from the then Lord Mayor William Russell and  Lady Mayoress Hilary Russell. 

What would you like to do going forward?

We want to do more events because that's essential for funding and raising awareness. Members of the Livery Companies have a lot of skill and opportunity to highlight the cause, and we would like their help with that.

We also want to push the project's boundaries beyond the City of London. We currently have an application for funding from the City Corporation, which would enable us to employ an ecologist to support various green spaces in terms of real data. We hope to play a role in some big projects that are about to happen, one of which is called Wild West End, an initiative by the Crown Estate and other major estates in the West End. 

London is quite a green city, but we want to encourage more planting and help make people aware of the right type of planting to encourage and support pollinators. 

Do you think now is the right time to raise awareness around declining biodiversity?

We intentionally launched the initiative two weeks before COP26, and I think people are very aware of environmental issues and the need to do more. 

There's a greater appetite to do better - we see it in what people are eating, how they are investing their money, and how we run our buildings. Our ideas are also closely aligned with the City Corporation's Climate Action Strategy, which launched in 2020.

Cities are wonderful for generating ideas, so I think the City of London is ideal for inspiration and making a difference.

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