Meatless Monday—and Every Day—at the Office

July 17, 2018

Two weeks ago, I wrote about efforts to cultivate algae as a food source. Proponents of algae-based nutrition point out that 70% of the world’s freshwater use goes into raising crops and livestock. We’ve also touched on the issue here, comparing how much water various types of food—especially meats—take to produce. A pound of chicken, for example, requires 518 gallons of water and a pound of beef 1,847 gallons, versus 299 gallons for a pound of rice and just 34 gallons per pound of potatoes.

Many people, for environmental, health, or ethical reasons, choose not to eat meat.  But what if someone else made that choice for you? This CNN article reports on a company, WeWork, that has just banned meat in the workplace. That means meat won’t be served at company-sponsored events, and employees submitting expense reports won’t be reimbursed for meals that include red meat, poultry, or pork.

The company, which has about 6,000 employees and operates in 25 different countries, provides office space; its tagline is “We create environments that increase productivity, innovation, and collaboration.”

A WeWork cofounder said in a memo to employees that the company 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.” At an upcoming three-day offsite meeting, he estimates, the new policy will save more than 10,000 animals.

The CNN article compares WeWork’s decision to steps other companies have taken to be more environmentally sustainable, such as Starbucks recently announcing a ban on plastic straws in all its stores (a move that affects customers more than employees). It’s conceivable that other companies will follow suit in some fashion.

Employees’ actions often reflect a company’s mission or goals, either because we gravitate toward workplaces that reflect our own outlooks or because our jobs make us aware of a situation. Here at Forester Media, for example, many of us, even those not directly involved with the editorial content of Stormwater magazine, are very much aware of the implications of our actions as they relate to water quality. We all know, for instance, that it would reflect very badly on us personally as well as on the company if one of us should be caught pouring used motor oil into the storm drain, say. Several years ago a co-worker announced he’d given up his long-standing practice of washing his car in his driveway and letting the soapy water run into the storm drain; he’d had no idea, before working here, that it posed any sort of problem. (I should add, though, that this isn’t an official company policy, and management has no plans to make it official as far as I know.)

What do you think of company rules like WeWork’s meat ban? Is it an unwarranted imposition of the company leaders’ values on employees, or a reasonable setting of company policy? Does it matter how closely the particular rule somehow reflects the company’s business or mission? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.

About the Author

Janice Kaspersen

Janice Kaspersen is the former editor of Erosion Control and Stormwater magazines.