Banning Meat in the Workplace

By: Marie Donlon

Some workplaces have bans on attire such as flip flops while others might have a company-wide policy outlawing the use of social media at work. Now, one startup is actually telling its employees what they can eat.

WeWork, a real estate startup with offices all over the world, has recently made it part of company policy to ban meat in its offices and at company events.

The ban was announced by WeWork cofounder Miguel McKelvey via email to an estimated 6,000 employees with the company. Starting immediately, according to the communication, employees will no longer be reimbursed for meals containing pork, poultry or red meat. Likewise, meat will no longer be served at company functions and events.

The reason for such a culture change, according to the email, is purely out of concern for the environment. McKelvey wrote that WeWork can save "an estimated 16.7 billion gallons of water, 445.1 million pounds (201.9 million kg) of CO2 emissions, and over 15 million animals by 2023 by eliminating meat at our events."

"In just the three days we are together, we estimate that we can save more than 10,000 animals," he wrote in the email. "The team has worked hard to create a sustainable, plentiful, and delicious menu."

Considering the boldness of such a move, experts have weighed in on the policy, looking at the change from both sides of the argument.

"These actions sharpen, or reaffirm, a company's identity in the broader political culture," said Forrest Briscoe, professor of management and organization at Penn State's Smeal College of Business. "And as long as there are stakeholders who approve, then they can also make a plausible business case for such actions."

"On one hand, given the altruistic motives expressed, it's a positive step to want to do something to improve the environment," said Cindy Schipani, who teaches business law at University of Michigan Ross School of Business. "On the other hand, the company is cutting back on an employee benefit, and those employees who do not subscribe to a meat-free diet may become disgruntled."