Co-working giant won't reimburse meat-based employee meals

spaghetti and meatballs
CC BY 2.0 Unsound Media

It'll be interesting to see how this is received.

When I wrote about big companies boosting flexitarianism, I was thinking mostly about Meatless Mondays, offering vegetarian options, or other incremental steps to cut down on meat consumption.

Now Business Green reports that co-working giant WeWork is taking a step further—it's removing meat from all WeWork event menus and it also won't reimburse employees for meals involving meat. The effort should, apparently, save 16.6 billion gallons of water and 445 million pounds of CO2 emissions by 2023.

Much like the soccer club that stopped serving meat, this is a bold move and it will be interesting to see how this move is received. Certainly, research suggesting that cutting out meat and dairy is the single biggest thing we—as individuals—can do for the climate would seem to bolster such efforts. However, I wouldn't be shocked to hear a backlash from some employees, even in our flexitarian-friendly times.

Other companies are taking a less drastic approach. Ikea, for example, is focused on increasing the percentage of plant-based meals served at its restaurants. Virgin Atlantic is tackling the issue by removing only the most emissions-intensive meats (e.g. beef) from its in-flight menus. (The company is also removing soy beans and palm oil, thanks to their link to deforestation.)

Whichever move is most effective in the long run, it's fair to say that this feels like a new front in terms of corporate responsibility. Given the direct purchasing power of some of these big companies, we can expect such efforts to have a significant direct impact. But they may also help to change the conversation around cultural expectations for meals. Certainly, I would expect food service companies that cater to business will start to offer a lot more plant-based options, and that could have a major ripple effect beyond any one single company.

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