BASF introduced the Living Acres Monarch Challenge in 2015 as the company’s first major sustainability initiative in North America. With monarch butterfly populations in sharp decline due to habitat loss and other factors, the company focused on empowering growers to plant milkweed, a critical plant for larval development, alongside cropland, on golf courses, and in other agricultural areas.
“We have a big agriculture component at BASF,” Holly said. “Monarchs allowed us to work with our customers to engage them in sustainability.”
BASF also engages community members in their conservation efforts. Employees at BASF’s McIntosh facility built an 850 square-foot pollinator garden and outdoor classroom to educate employees and school children as to the importance of pollinator conservation. The pollinator garden includes a variety of milkweeds to support monarch butterflies, as well as many other native plant species that provide nectar and shelter to a diversity of pollinators.
The outdoor classroom includes education signage to introduce the pollinators and plants to employees, contractors, and others visiting the facility. Volunteer Employee Ambassadors use the garden to give students from area schools hands-on experience with pollinators.
“We target fourth-grade students as pollinators are part of the curriculum,” said LaShaunda Holly, communications manager at the McIntosh facility. So far, over 300 area students have visited the site to participate in monarch releases, study pollinators and plants in the gardens, and participate in Kid’s Lab workshops.
“We want to make sure families are learning along with their students,” Holly said. “We send them home with a seed kit to grow at home.”
The garden was conceived of and built by employees at the McIntosh facility, who continue to maintain the plantings. “This is truly an employee effort,” Holly said, adding that the garden has been a source of healing during the current pandemic. “Being in touch with nature, getting your hands in God’s great earth helps take your mind away from other things.”
The team is working closely with the Wildlife Habitat Council, an internationally active non-profit guiding corporations in conservation, to document pollinators in the garden and expand plantings, including a second planting focused on resources for fall butterflies. Project certification through the Wildlife Habitat Council provides objective, third-party recognition and engages companies in a long-term commitment to enhancing biodiversity and conservation education. As they seek certification for their current project, the team already has their sight on phase two. “We have a lot of wildlife on our property,” Holly said. “We’re looking at planting milkweed in some of the natural areas on site.”