This week, there has been a flurry of coverage over General Mills’ decision to remove Buzz the cartoon bee from boxes of Honey Nut Cheerios – for a limited time – while they help find a solution to unstable bee populations.
This campaign is uninformed (at best) and (at worst) is blatantly misleading to consumers. Here’s what we need to consider before applauding General Mills:
- Are they truly concerned about the bees or did they find a great way to boost their already best-selling cereal? We love socially good marketing (that’s what we take pride in doing with integrity), but have no tolerance for “causewashing”.
- If General Mills is truly concerned with the bee decline – as it is one of the most urgent and troubling issues we face globally – their current practices and pretty much every product under its big food brand need an overhaul. They must stop their use of conventional GMO ingredients that are treated with neonicotinoids (insecticides that paralyze and kill insects – including, yup, bees). They could donate a percentage of their profits to organizations working to help save the bees, like Shoresh. And, if they continue to use honey, they should be sourcing it from bee-keepers that use sustainable and healthy practices meant to protect the health of bee colonies. The mass production of honey by the commercial beekeeping industry using unhealthy practices actually causes colony collapse. As it stands now, this is the industry we are supporting when we buy Honey Nut Cheerios and other General Mills products.
- As part of this campaign, General Mills will be handing out 50,000 wildflower seed packs. Are the wildflowers they are distributing treated with neonics? Planting wildflowers could actually cause more harm than good, if they are treated with the very pesticides that are killing bees (it is surprising how many are). The “Seed Manager” at Veseys, who is supplying the packs, wouldn’t take our call, and the representative we did manage to speak to said, “Some of our seeds are treated, but our wildflowers seeds are not.” And upon our asking for certification said, “We have no official certification for this to share”. Aren’t you curious now too? Don’t we deserve an answer?
- Is General Mills giving of their resources to help solve this problem in a truly meaningful way? HOW? If their endgame is simply to hand out wildflower seeds and “draw attention” through this publicity stunt, how are they affecting change?
Honey Nut Cheerios mascot goes missing as brand addresses declining bee populations. https://t.co/zltrkTHyJm pic.twitter.com/wrgMqGBjzz
— Adweek (@Adweek) March 14, 2016
There is so much wrong with everything from their “Naturally Flavoured” claim to their insincere efforts to save the bees.
Right now, General Mills is benefitting from some very lucrative and positive PR and have important and influential people applauding them, and sharing this campaign as a positive one. We do not want to dismiss that attention towards saving the bees and colony collapse isn’t of value, but the attention is really going to a box of cereal and a company doing much more damage than good.
This “campaign” has left so many important, vital, and unavoidable questions unanswered. Let’s start asking more questions about everything.
In the meantime, if you want to truly be bee friendly, here’s how you can make a difference and if you need simple information delivered by a teenager read this.