On paper, the Volkswagen Group is the largest overall automaker in the world in terms of employment, with nearly 700,000 employees across its brands all around the world. That dwarfs runners-up like BYD (~570,000), Toyota (~380,000) and Stellantis (~270,000). In contrast, British luxury brand Bentley, a Volkswagen subsidiary, only employs around 4,000 humans. But if you include all of the bees that Bentley employs, it easily takes the top spot.
Yes, I do mean bees, as in the flying, stinging, honey producing bugs. Bentley has been operating a colony of bees at its Crewe headquarters since 2019, with 400,000 new bees being added this year to bring the total number to 1 million across 17 different hives. Bentley calls the colony the Excellence Centre for Honey Production, which I think is just incredible. As part of the fifth annual honey harvest, over the summer Bentley collected 500 jars of the Black Edition Label honey, which was produced by the two oldest hives, as well as 1,000 jars of “regular” honey. Bentley’s design team redesigned the honey jars and labels, and they do look suitably fancy.
Sadly, you can’t actually buy the Bentley honey. Instead it’s given out as gifts at corporate events and customer events, used as prizes for internal competitions and awards, and donated to charities. The bees were first thought up as a way to push and expand Bentley’s Beyond100 strategy, which has the goal of making the brand carbon neutral by 2030 and the Crewe facility carbon positive after that in the pursuit of being one of the most sustainable luxury brands.
In addition to producing delicious honey, the hives help pollinate the flora in the countryside around the factory, which has a positive impact on the surrounding nature and in turn improves the mental wellbeing of Bentley’s human employees by making their surroundings more beautiful.
Bentley isn’t the only luxury brand with bees. Rolls-Royce has maintained a colony at its Goodwood headquarters since 2017 that has more than 300,000 bees, plus a new apiary in Dubai that was opened in 2021 and has 60,000 bees. Still, that’s a far cry from Bentley’s 1 million bees.