Earlier this month WeWork adopted a company wide policy I’ll label WeVeg; essentially turning all of their employees into vegetarians during business hours. WeWork will no longer serve red meat, pork or poultry at company functions, and it will not reimburse employees for any meat items on receipts.
The reasons given for the new policy are mostly environmental. “New research indicates that avoiding meat is one of the biggest things an individual can do to reduce their personal environmental impact — even more than switching to a hybrid car,” WeWork’s co-founder Miguel McKelvey wrote.
While their motivation is in the right place, I have two concerns with the tactics they’re using to achieve their larger environmental footprint goal.
Educating Versus Mandating
This is an employer mandate. By telling people what to do (or what not to do) they’re skipping over a conversation to be had about agriculture and its environmental impact and educating people to come to their own conclusions.
If an employee doesn’t see the reasoning to why they can’t order a chicken salad, they might double down on their meat consumption once they get home, or just bring their own turkey club to work, essentially nullifying the initiative.
Also, as a company, they have more power than any one person (more on this below). They can use the power of the purse to purchase from and support companies that offer sustainable sources of meat.
Buildings: The Bigger Polluter
This policy is based on improving the environment and individual accountability. Well guess what – WeWork is not an individual. They’re a $20 billion company and one of the largest tenants in many major cities including New York and London.
While agriculture accounts for 9% of greenhouse gas emissions, buildings account for 11%.
WeWork is in a greater position than any one employee to have a massive impact. If they really want to make a push towards being environmentally sustainable (and not just by buying carbon credits), they should require all the buildings they occupy to have a green certification, such as LEED.
Two ideas here – education and green building standards. They take a little bit more work than a simple blanket ban (and might cost more), but I believe they’d have a far greater environmental impact, which is the ultimate goal.