WeWork is going meat-free and taking every one of its employees with it.
The startup cited environmental concerns in announcing its immediate company-wide ban on meat. In an email sent Thursday, WeWork cofounder Miguel McKelvey told his 6,000 or so employees the company will no longer serve meat at employee events or reimburse them for meals that include red meat, poultry and pork.
It’s a bold move for the real estate behemoth believed to be worth $20 billion — and the most assertive in a series of recent steps large companies have taken to promote sustainability.
“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.”
New York-based WeWork, which operates in more than 20 countries, offers tiered pricing plans for coworking spaces that can run more than $1,000 a month. Its selling point is “community,” and the company prides itself on helping set the culture for the entrepreneurs and businesses that use its facilities.
While it’s not unusual for companies to take measures that they deem to help with environmental sustainability, they’ve been limited in measure. American Airlines and Starbucks recently announced plans to ban plastic straws because they contribute to ocean pollution and endanger marine life.
Others have adopted more extreme measures. Failed startup Juicero reportedly required employees to eat only at vegan restaurants while traveling if they wanted to be reimbursed. Employees at the smart drug startup Nootrobox engage in intermittent fasting each Tuesday.
McKelvey notes in his email — obtained by CNN — 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.”
The policy takes effect immediately, which means employees won’t see burgers, hot dogs, or other carnivorous options at the company’s upcoming annual ‘Summer Camp’ gathering.
“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.”
That may not go over well with employees who want to help the planet but see nothing wrong with biting into a grilled steak or carnitas burrito.
“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.”
CNNMoney (New York) First published July 13, 2018: 5:25 PM ET