As has been widely publicized, work space broker WeWork recently announced that meat will no longer be served at corporate events and employees will no longer be reimbursed for expense-account meals that include meat.
WeWork, which operates in some 20 countries, makes its money by marketing “coworking spaces” for small businesses in deals that can run more than $1,000 a month, according to reporting by CNN.
“Its selling point is ‘community,’ ” the CNN story noted, “and the company prides itself on helping set the culture for the entrepreneurs and businesses that use its facilities.”
Now, that culture includes “saving the environment” by forcing its 6,000 employees to avoid eating or purchasing meat on the company’s dime.
There’s some irony here, though.
WeWork’s cofounder Miguel McKelvey is reportedly a billionaire, who happens to be building a multi-million-dollar home in Utah. It’s located in an exclusive development called Powder Mountain, basically an entire mountain that includes some 10,000 acres of prime ski terrain, according to reporting by The Guardian.
As the newspaper noted, the real estate development will soon have such super-rich residents as Ken Howery, founder of PayPal; Richard Branson, the British business titan and investor who controls more than 400 companies through the Virgin Group; Tim Ferriss, investor and author of “The 4-Hour Work Week;” and Martin Sorrell, founder of the UK-based WPP plc, the world’s biggest advertising and PR agency.
The entrepreneurs behind the project, Jeff Rosenthal, Elliott Bisnow, and Brett Leve, envision an “exclusive, socially conscious community” populated by “people with the right psychographics,” ie, the proper environmental consciousness.
On that score, McKelvey fits right in.
One question, though: What kind of carbon footprint do you suppose McKelvey’s pricey new digs at Powder Mountain will generate? I doubt if he or any of the other ultra-wealthy residents there will be skimping on square footage, use of high-end building materials, big-time HVAC systems, manicured landscaping or restaurant-scale kitchens, along with all the must-have amenities millionaires require, like dining rooms seating 50, home theaters that rival state-of-the-art cinemas and such goodies like regulation bowling alleys and floor-to-ceiling shark tanks.
Of course, as The Guardian story noted, Rosenthal, et al, “bristle at the idea that they’re trying to build a high-altitude utopia for plutocrats.”
Um, not to be judgmental, but that appears to be exactly what they’re building.
Look, God bless ’em all for making it big in business. They’re entitled to enjoy the fruits of their investments.
But when the same super-rich guys who’ve made their billions on the backs of thousands of hard-working employees start spouting off about lifestyle changes that other people need to make to advance one of their pet projects, that’s where I part company with these so-called visionaries.
The loudest voices demanding that the rest of us need to change our diets, curb our energy usage and pay strict attention to the ways in which we’re negatively affecting Planet Earth always seem to be the same guys with penthouse offices, private jets and sprawling mansions — you know, as part of their eco-conscious lifestyles.
If McKelvey was truly dedicated to the notion that the corporate world should lead the way in developing sustainable business models, he could focus on plenty of areas where improvements would make a much bigger difference in energy and resource consumption than some half-baked meat ban.
How about transportation? Has WeWork done everything possible to promote alternatives to employees commuting to work in cars? Does McKelvey take public transportation? Ever?
How about the company’s offices and work spaces? Are the thermostats turned down in winter and up in summer?
And speaking about food, how about proactive policies on food waste? I’ve yet to attend a corporate meeting, conference or special event where there wasn’t a truckload of food served up, not eaten and eventually tossed in the trash.
Curbing all that waste would reduce a company’s eco-footprint more than substituting processed veggie foods for red meat.
For all its questionable benefits, however, WeWork did manage to achieve something substantive with its ban on employees eating meat: A lot of publicity they otherwise would never have gotten.
I can’t help but suspect that’s the real reason behind its announcement.
Editor’s Note: The opinions in this commentary are those of Dan Murphy, a veteran journalist and commentator.