There has been much talk about the health benefits of plant-based diets in recent years. Through various documentaries and publications, we have also learnt far more about the impact that meat production is having on the planet. It seems that half the recipe books in the shops focus on vegetarian, flexitarian or vegan diets and vegan options on menus are becoming far more frequent (and appealing). Still, only around 2% of the UK population identifies as vegan. So why are we seeing such a focus on veganism and why do businesses need to be mindful of vegan employees?
Firstly, there are probably more people on plant-based diets than can be accounted for. Far more people are vegetarians and, although the vegan diet doesn’t become long-term for a lot of people, many people try it. For some, veganuary has become an annual month of diet change. In addition, the term 'flexitarian' has become commonplace in the UK as more Brits resolve to eat less meat, often citing climate change as their key motivation. Therefore, the number of non-meat-eaters and those who don’t consume animal products may be higher than you think. It’s also climbing. According to a survey by YouGov, 77% of those over 45 years describe themselves as meat eaters, whilst just 53% of 18-24-year-olds claim to eat meat. Furthermore, given the upwards trajectory of veganism, it is predicted that a quarter of the UK will be on a vegan diet by 2025.
Why Should Employers Be Vegan-Friendly?
The effects of the global rise in veganism could be widespread for businesses, with many needing to consider their supply chains, product sourcing and other operations as consumers become more environmentally conscious and reject the practices that inflict harm on animals. Companies may also have to consider the rise of veganism in their workforce. Of course, what a business's employees eat seems irrelevant. Yet, diet feeds into so many other things. After all, when we come together to celebrate or bond it is often over food or drink. Beyond this, the way we eat is often influenced by our values and although a company does not have to completely share the values of each employee, being mindful, aware, and acting with consideration, can strengthen the employer-employee relationship.
This is a key reason why many businesses are seeking vegan-friendly employee gifts and rewards, as well as catering for plant-based diets at events.
How Can Employers Be Vegan-Friendly?
Generally, when we are tasked with coming up with ways to reward a whole group of people, we take the majority's preferences to guide us. This can be a mistake. Focusing on the default profile of customers or staff may seem like the best approach, but offending or ostracising a minority can tarnish relationships.
For example, if staff celebrations are regularly held at a steakhouse, then it's likely vegan employees won't feel able to attend. This could create distance between them and other team members. It can also lead them to feel less visible within the organisation. Whereas, if team dinners were held at vegan-friendly restaurants the event becomes inclusive. So, being vegan-friendly isn't about trying to change the diets or values of any other employees, it's about ensuring your plant-based staff are not excluded or upset.
The problem is, unless you follow a vegan lifestyle, what is and what is not vegan-friendly isn't always obvious. So, here are a few ways that businesses can plan inclusive work events and source vegan-friendly employee gifts.
Vegan-Friendly Corporate Events
Good food is often at the heart of a good event. A few years ago, vegans and sometimes even vegetarians, would need to fill out the ‘special dietary requirements’ section when RSVPing for a work event. Now though, it is becoming standard to offer vegetarian and vegan options.
Not only should there be a vegan option as standard but it should convey the same level of thought that has gone into other menu items. For too long vegetarians have delivered the inevitable eye-roll at seeing yet another ‘pasta in tomato sauce’ or ‘vegetarian tart’ as their only option. They knew that vegetarian food wasn’t boring but it took a lot longer for many restaurant kitchens to realise. Thanks to a growing number of mainstream celebrity chefs focusing on plant-based meals though, vegan options are becoming more adventurous. Being that many plant-based eaters are actually food enthusiasts it’s only fair that non-meat-eating employees get to experience the same high quality and care in the dishes they get served at corporate events.
Food is not the only consideration when it comes to veganism and events though. Veganism is more than a diet - it’s a belief system that rejects any animal products or practices that cause harm or distress to animals. Therefore, some traditional corporate events may not be willingly attended by vegans, such as horse racing, fishing or dog racing. For some team-building events it may be worth double-checking the suitability for vegans even if it doesn’t seem relevant. For instance, paintballing is not technically vegan since the paint and the balls themselves contain animal products.
Vegan-Friendly Employee Gifts
Vegan-friendly employee gifts needn’t just be for vegans. When giving employees gifts we are unlikely to know the individual as well as we’d know other people we might buy gifts for. Therefore, a 'better safe than sorry' approach is usually wise. In terms of diet, vegan food choices are highly advised because they also tend to be free from other common allergens. It’s also not only vegans who refrain from eating certain products. Others may also eliminate certain foods due to religious beliefs but plant-based products don’t usually contain anything which may cause offence. Also, vegan chocolate and other vegan alternatives are so much better than they used to be so you don’t have to compromise on quality. Take our amazing vegan chocolate range, which contains all sorts of plant-powered punchy flavours and easily rivals anything milk-based.
At Out Of The Box, we create sustainable corporate gift boxes that promote the health and happiness of the receiver as well as of the planet. Since we source only ethical and sustainable gifts, they are also suitable for vegans as there are clear crossovers between eco-conscious and vegan lifestyles.
Therefore, if you’re a business that values sustainability, you may find selecting vegan employee gifts helps to further reduce your company's carbon footprint.
Creating A Vegan-Friendly Workplace
Mostly, you don’t want any employees to feel disregarded. Therefore, it’s about the small everyday things. Here are a few ways to be mindful of vegan employees in the workplace:
- Keep vegan and non-vegan food and drinks separate in communal areas
- If you’re providing food or snacks in the workplace then plant-based options should be available too
- If you provide uniforms to employees ensure there are vegan options, including alternatives to leather
- Be aware that discrimination based on a person’s beliefs does extend to veganism and it is not only prohibited in the workplace but also law
Remember, being vegan-friendly does not mean pushing a vegan lifestyle upon all of your employees. It’s about ensuring everyone in your organisation feels welcome, included and valued. Corporate events, rewards and employee gifts may seem like added extras in someone’s working life but they are also the areas in which staff can see how well employers really know them and how much their wellbeing really matters.