Responsible Purchasing Network

Bee-Friendly Purchasing

bee and flower

Honeybees and other pollinators, which are the backbone of our food system, are rapidly declining due to several factors. A growing body of scientific research has implicated the widespread use of pesticides, including neonicotinoids (also called "neonics"), as a fundamental contributor to pollinator declines.

Neonics are insecticides that are persistent, systemic, and potentially addictive to pollinators. They are largely applied to plants and seeds to prevent insects from eating them. These water soluble pesticides are readily absorbed by plant roots and transported systemically in the plant's vascular system to other parts of the plant, including roots, pollen, nectar, leaves, stems, and fruit. This absorption pathway results in the exposure of beneficial, non-target insects such as bees and other pollinators to potentially lethal doses of these pesticides. These insecticides are added to ornamental flower dust, insecticidal sprays, fertilizers, and other landscaping products. They are also found in pre-treated seeds and plants — including some that are labeled pollinator friendly — as well as in some pressure-treated wood, deck sealants, and other building supplies to minimize pest damage.

Despite mounting evidence of the significant hazard that neonics pose to pollinators, the U.S. EPA has continued allowing most neonicotinoid pesticides to remain on the market. Fortunately, a growing number of government entities and institutions — notably, local governments and universities — are taking action to protect pollinators by adopting new policies and practices that restrict the use of neonics and increase the amount of pollinator-friendly habitat on their property.


RPN Resources

bee-friendly purchasing report cover

Buyers Bee-ware: Municipal Purchasers' Guide
to Protecting Pollinators - January 2017

Buyers Bee-ware: Municipal Purchasers’ Guide to Protecting Pollinators, a report by RPN and Friends of the Earth released in January 2017, outlines how government agencies and institutions can change their purchasing policies and practices to protect honey bees and other pollinators. Actions include:

  • Adopting a pollinator protection policy that includes a commitment to avoiding the purchase of pesticides and plants that contain neonics and other systemic pesticides.

  • Creating a list of approved or prohibited pesticides that restrict pesticides that can negatively impact honeybees and other pollinators.

  • Negotiating commodity contracts and service agreements that prevent suppliers from offering products containing neonics or other pesticides that are harmful to pollinators.

  • Creating pollinator-friendly habitat by planting wildflowers along rights-of-way, installing green/vegetative roofs, and transitioning to an organic land management system.

  • Buying certified-organic agricultural products such as produce, coffee, and cotton textiles.
For more info, please see the press release




RPN Webinar: Saving the Pollinators - July 15, 2015

State and local governments, school districts, colleges and universities, hospitals, and businesses spend millions of dollars a year on landscaping and pest management products and services. During the past decade, many of these organizations have saved money and reduced toxic chemical use through integrated pest management (IPM). In addition, some organizations have eliminated the use of neonicotinoid pesticides ("neonics") to protect bees and other pollinators. RPN and Friends of the Earth co-hosted this webinar on purchasing strategies government agencies, educational institutions, and businesses can take to protect bees and other pollinators.

This webinar covered:

  • The latest scientific findings about neonics and their impact on pollinators

  • What leading organizations are doing to make their landscape and pest management efforts pollinator friendly

  • How your organization can use its purchasing policies and practices to protect pollinators

  • Resources available to help organizations like yours take steps to adopt pollinator-friendly purchasing policies and practices

This webinar featured:

  • Tiffany Finck-Haynes, Food Futures Campaigner, Friends of the Earth

  • Chris Geiger, Ph.D., Toxics Use Reduction Program, San Francisco Department of the Environment

  • Rella Abernathy, Integrated Pest Management Coordinator, Boulder, Colorado

  • Ciannat Howett, Director of Sustainability Initiatives, Emory University

  • Scott Williams, Assistant VP of Quality Assurance and Environmental Stewardship, BJ's Wholesale Club

  • Susan Kegley, Ph.D., CEO, Pesticide Research Institute

  • Rebecca Calahan Klein, Strategist, RPN (moderator)

Download the slides

Watch the video