With cause-embracing millennials and Gen Zers gaining power and influence in the consumer market, and increasingly in the workplace, businesses and brands have been encouraged to take a stand when the cause is right, and global co-working startup WeWork has no beef with taking a companywide stance against its target cause—the consumption of meat.
Embracing an environmental-footprint-reduction mission, the $20 billion company with 200 locations around the world has initiated a new internal policy whereby employees are no longer allowed to expense meat products, and red meat, poultry or pork will no longer be included on company menus. “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,” cites the new company policy, according to company cofounder Miguel McKelvey.
No, the organization isn’t demanding that its employees embrace the vegan lifestyle outright—workers are still allowed to eat meat that they have paid for, and even serve it at company-hosted events. But the company does not want to see any meat products on its menus or on its expense reports. Pescatarians won’t be affected, as fish is not covered in the meatless initiative.
“In the past few weeks, many teams around the world have already taken action to help us become more environmentally conscious,“ reads an internal memo announcing the policy. “From plastic-free events in Montreal to recycling initiatives in Hong Kong, we are excited and humbled by how quickly our teams can make an impact. But we know we can do more,” it continues.
“We are energized by this opportunity to leave a better world for future generations and appreciate your partnership as we continue the journey.”
On the surface, the policy reflects an increasing emphasis on environmental concerns in modern culture, which will certainly continue to flourish. But from a cause marketing perspective, this initiative opens another door into the expanding, more progressive workplace of the future, and the associated reputation branding that will appeal to consumers and employees alike—and, likely, cause-minded investors as well.
“It’s a sign of the way things are moving, as employees today expect employers to have a social and environmental conscience,“ said Virginia Hoekenga, deputy director of the National Association for Environmental Management, a coalition of corporate sustainability leaders. Today’s companies “understand it’s a talent war out there, and employees are looking for employers that are demonstrating their commitment to environmental progress,” she says.
The move is certainly not without its detractors. Slate refers to it as a “draconian new meal policy“ that will cause “a ridiculous amount of agita for staffers and, especially, the HR folks tasked with enforcing the policy.” Slate writer Felix Salmon also implies a bit of hypocrisy in the policy, citing that WeWork might be more environmentally served by focusing on the energy waste in its 10 million square feet of office space worldwide, such as by moving to energy-saving buildings.
But in a sense, that point merely highlights the mission of the new world of cause marketing—pick a cause, any cause, and run with it. Make sure it’s important to you, and make it count. It could be your brand’s turn next.