WeWork is an American company that provides shared workspaces, technology startup subculture communities, and services for entrepreneurs, freelancers, startups, small businesses and large enterprises. The company, known for its innovative co-working space movement, has recently announced that it will no longer serve red meat, pork or poultry at company functions, nor will it reimburse employees for meals they order during lunch meetings that contain meat.
In a recent New York Times article, it was reported that the company’s decision to implement the new initiative was driven by concerns for the environment and animal welfare, as well as a way to ‘develop personal accountability.’ Co-founder and chief culture officer of WeWork, Miguel McKelvey, told the New York Times that going meat-free is only the first step, stating, “WeWork is only just getting started. The company is phasing out leather furniture, single-use plastics, and is going carbon neutral. In time, he said, the company will evaluate its consumption of seafood, eggs, dairy, and alcohol.”
The decision highlights a recent trend of private companies imposing corporate values on the personal lives of employees. As the Times article noted, “Hobby Lobby has refused to pay for birth control for its employees, citing the owner’s Christian values… In 2015, IBM banned employees from using ride-sharing apps, citing safety and liability concerns… And several big employers, including General Electric, have successfully paid employees to quit smoking. Scotts Miracle-Gro even has a policy of not hiring smokers, a move it says helps keep health care costs down.”
WeWork’s new policy appears to be the first of its kind, in withholding a food group from employees. While the company is attempting to promote healthier and eco-conscious decisions, the employee reaction will be most crucial to the success of the initiative. McKelvey pointed out that “imposing his values on his employees is a natural part of being a corporate leader today.” However, as the Times article reported, while “there’s plenty of evidence that eating less meat is good for one’s health and the planet… [a] more effective way to promote healthy eating was to offer employees a variety of options.