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Property firm rolls out veggie-only expense policy

A property development firm is the latest business to stop meaty expense claims in order to reduce its environmental impact.  

21st Feb 2020
Practice Editor AccountingWEB
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If employees at Igloo Regeneration want a bacon sandwich, they’ll have to pay out of their own pocket. The property business will only reimburse vegetarian meals and has taken meat off the menu for workshop catering and corporate entertaining.

The firm’s decision to go vegetarian last year was brought about by environmental concerns. Not everybody at the 30-strong business was initially convinced by the environmental impact, but it got an overall backing at an internal vote.

Development surveyor Kate Marfleet told the BBC that the policy is self-policing. "If you're gluten-free and there's no suitable vegetarian option, then you can make a choice," she says.

"And if you are somewhere where there is no vegetarian option, then obviously you shouldn't starve. Even if you decided you really wanted a bacon sandwich, then that's fine, but the company won't pay for it."

The company has also extended its green policy to other areas of the business, such as doing away with company cars and encouraging employees to use trains instead. 

Nanny state?

Although Igloo’s director John Long insisted that "We're not checking the bins," the ‘ethical accountant’ Tessa Hebditch said similar non-optional meat-free policies "would be hard to enforce" and raises the risk of becoming a “nanny state”.

“You should make it clear that you're not going to enforce it because you understand people have a right to claim allowance when they're away. But making it optional with the education alongside means that people are more likely to listen and understand the reasons why,” she said.

As the scale of the climate emergency has dominated the headlines, the environmental impact of the meat industry has come under intense scrutiny. With animal products attributing to more than half of food emissions, plant-based diets are on the up and have been bolstered by events such as Veganuary.

“Being able to eat more sustainably is a great idea,” added Hebditch. “One of the biggest contributors to climate change is the meat and farming industry, but a lot of the pressure has been put on individuals to change. However, if we focus our attention on industries there will be a much bigger immediate impact.”

Is it a mis-steak?

Igloo is not alone in encouraging staff members to swap their steak bake for the vegetarian option. Igloo’s new policy follows a similar stance taken in 2018 by shared office space provider WeWork who banned red meat, poultry and pork from the expenses policy. Enforcing the policy for its 6,000 workers worldwide, WeWork calculated that it would save an estimated 16.7 billion gallons of water, 445.1million pounds of CO2 emissions, and over 15 million animals by 2023.

However, WeWork’s veggie position attracted some dissenters in the AccountingWEB community. Ian McTernan criticised the policy as “stupid virtue signalling”, while AccountingWEB member crebourret said, “I bet they reimburse mileage done in SUVs and other powerful engines”.

Meanwhile, Tom 7000 suspected that these policies were not always environmentally motivated. “[I wonder if the] FD will rub their hands together as subsistence payments drop by 70%?”

Despite these opposing voices, the founding partner of Telic Yogesh Patel sees the environmental shift as a planning opportunity for accountants to help clients that goes beyond vegetarian expense policies. “From 6 April 2020, the electric company car taxable benefit will drop from 16% to 0%. This is a significant step to help businesses focus on more environmentally family transport options as it will also provide cost savings.”

In the coming years, Patel envisions more companies to embrace similar green policies. "Within the next 2-3 years or even sooner, I expect there will be a significant cultural shift in how businesses incorporate tackling the climate crisis within their company culture and values.

“With the UK hosting the UN's climate change conference COP 26 in November, I expect to see more UK companies and the UK government bringing in new initiatives to help us work collectively to help us manage climate change.”

Replies (39)

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By SteLacca
21st Feb 2020 10:24

Given that ethical veganism has been given status as a protected characteristic now, I wonder if non vegetarian staff have a similar protection and could pursue a discrimination case against the company.

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Replying to SteLacca:
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By Mr_awol
21st Feb 2020 10:47

I doubt it could be classed as discrimination. Then again if an employee really disagrees with it, they may refuse to put themselves in a position where they incur an expense claim - or just find a decent employer who doesn't ram their own beliefs down employees' throats.

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By Mr_awol
21st Feb 2020 10:37

I'd just carry on buying what I wanted, and putting it through on exes. If they refused to pay, then they can find someone else to travel - or I'd be getting the local pasty shop/restaurant/etc to put some veggie [***] on the bill but bring me something I actually wanted.

Similarly on the entertaining front. They might be able to dictate the canapes at corporate events but if I'm sat there entertaining a potential customer there's no way I'm telling them what they can or cant have off the menu - or paying for his choices out of my own pocket.

Actually it's probably not all that relevant to me though, to be fair. The vast majority of my expense claims over the course of my career have been for liquid sustenance anyway! Do finings (fish swim bladders, usually) count?

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Replying to Mr_awol:
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By patricia caputo
21st Feb 2020 12:35

You would 'fiddle' an expense claim?

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By Mr_awol
21st Feb 2020 13:33

Assuming I was sent out of my area far enough that a subsistence claim was valid, I would purchase some lunch, obtain a receipt for the amount I had spent and present that to my employer for reimbursement.

Perhaps I should have written 'employees will simply' rather than 'I would'. In honesty, I'm more likely to tell them in advance that I have no intention of adhering to such a ridiculous policy, and as such the situation would never arise. Either they'd agree in advance I was exempt, or somebody else would be going.

That isn't to say that I insist on every single thing I eat having some sort of meat content. It is entirely possible that I could agree an exemption and then end up ordering something veggie anyway!

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By Richard Grant
21st Feb 2020 10:38

Just virtue signalling nonsense. How would they feel if the policy was to only pay for meat based products? Just another company to avoid.

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By fellowcraft
21st Feb 2020 10:38

Will they be developing their properties with sustainable mud?

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By graydjames
21st Feb 2020 10:49

The problem with this kind of policy is that it becomes difficult to distinguish between a genuine attempt at countering climate change and an evangelical, symbol-bashing movement against eating meat on ethical and animal rights grounds! Reducing the consumption of meat is, I think, universally accepted as a necessary part of reducing carbon emissions, and I am content to be a part of that, but attempts to stop meat eating altogether looks too much to me like a vegetarian crusade of which I want no part.

So many smug veggies and vegans are hitching a ride on the environmental argument and think it justifies their ethical case. It doesn't!

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By mkowl
21st Feb 2020 10:56

This is just another reason why I run my own business and would be virtually unemployable in any modern work place

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By flightdeck
21st Feb 2020 15:03

#metoo

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By Truthsayer
21st Feb 2020 10:59

'Enforcing the policy for its 6,000 workers worldwide, WeWork calculated that it would save an estimated 16.7 billion gallons of water, 445.1million pounds of CO2 emissions, and over 15 million animals by 2023.'

According to my arithmetic, each worker must eat on average 500 animals per year, consume 1,500 gallons of water per day, and cause a carbon footprint of 40 tons per day! And that's just while they're at work! These figures are codswallop.

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By neiltonks
21st Feb 2020 11:16

I guess the water figure relates to that consumed by the animals, not the humans. Even so, it seems a lot and as you say, the figure of 15 million animals is just nonsense. And the animals aren't 'saved', they'd simply never exist.

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Replying to Truthsayer:
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By Mr_awol
21st Feb 2020 13:38

To be fair, according to 'cowspiracy' it takes 2,500 gallons of water to produce 1lb of beef.

I'm not sure how true that is - online it appears to vary from 1/5 of that to 3 times that.

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By mwalker
21st Feb 2020 13:56

I suspect that their maths assume that cows never take the p!ss.

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By clairebear
21st Feb 2020 14:51

Cowspiracy is based on dubious science and claims from the anti-meat lobby. Plus it's based in the US, so not really comparable to UK farming methods etc.

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Replying to Mr_awol:
Hallerud at Easter
By DJKL
22nd Feb 2020 14:48

And where does the water go once consumed by the animals- back into the ground where it gets filtered by rocks/gravel, works it way down to the water table and becomes-water.

Is water vapour that forms clouds consumed by the clouds or are the clouds merely a stage in its cycle?

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By clairebear
21st Feb 2020 11:18

It's awful virtue signalling based on really bad science and the absolute smugness of Ms Marfleet is stifling.
For a company to expect employees to go out, meet clients, etc etc and then dictate what they are allowed to eat (unless they want it to come out of their own pocket) is not going to end well, is it? I can really see their surveyors out on a freezing development site choosing a granola bar over a nice warm bacon roll.....

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By Nick Graves
21st Feb 2020 11:26

Given that there is increasing medical evidence that carbohydrates are driving the increase in modern diseases (including diabesity) and that a meat and green vegetables diet is what we're designed for, one might only hope that this firm liquidates before the inevitable legal actions from harmed employees in the future.

Then again, now that the processed-food industry has been rumbled as implicated in the foregoing, it has re-invented itself to push vegan concoctions instead. So perhaps just burying their mistakes (or burning them) will prevail...

Of course, meat is more expensive so do I detect cynical cost-saving disguised as virtue-signalling..?

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By AmandaElliott
21st Feb 2020 12:46

I’m sure these vegetarians are happy to eat a smashed avocado with all the food miles they involve.
What happened to eating a balanced diet with all food types represented using locally sourced produce both meat and veg.
Why does it always feel like the vegetarian/vegan element is preachy?

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Replying to AmandaElliott:
By k743snx
21st Feb 2020 13:35

As the joke goes:

"how do you know if someone is vegan/vegetarian? - they'll soon tell you".

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Replying to k743snx:
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By mkowl
21st Feb 2020 13:58

Doffs cap

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By stephen_walton
21st Feb 2020 13:03

Just checking and my diary confirms it is not 01 April

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By Ian McTernan CTA
21st Feb 2020 13:14

How about they all commit to having less children, or none? That would certainly help the environment much more than this crazy virtue signalling imposition of their 'values' on the other members of the staff.

I can see a great case for discrimination being brought to tribunal by one of the normal people who eat meat and get refused a reclaim whilst on company business, claiming constructive dismissal and discrimination against being an omnivore (which is what humans are).

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By k743snx
21st Feb 2020 13:33

Igloo and their ilk are in effect encouraged by a supposedly "Conservative" government wanting to "ban" things in the name of Greendom.
Maybe this policy was "backed" by employees because people were too afraid to disagree?

And the way formerly responsible organs like the FT are falling over themselves in embracing fundamentally anti-business green groupthink would be comical if it wasn't so serious in reality.

Give it a few years, then when the power cuts start, we can't drive our cars or holiday abroad anymore and the kids can't have their new gadgets each year, we could be in for some interesting times.

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Replying to k743snx:
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By neiltonks
21st Feb 2020 14:36

"when the power cuts start"

Yeah, the push to electric vehicles seems to ignore a couple of things. Firstly, we can't generate enough electricity to support an all-electric vehicle fleet on current battery and motor technologies. And secondly, the electricity distribution network (the wires above and below ground) can't carry enough power to cope with everyone charging an electric car every night. Huge investment in upgrades is needed, but nothing seems to be in the pipeline.

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By sculptureofman
21st Feb 2020 13:37

People getting predictably wound up by a small change to an expenses policy for a company they'll never work for.

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By rememberscarborough
21st Feb 2020 14:33

Looking forward to the time when meat eaters become the minority and then a few chickens will come home to roost.... (pun intended)

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Replying to rememberscarborough:
Quack
By Constantly Confused
21st Feb 2020 14:52

rememberscarborough wrote:

Looking forward to the time when meat eaters become the minority and then a few chickens will come home to roost.... (pun intended)

I literally have no idea what you are getting at...

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Quack
By Constantly Confused
21st Feb 2020 14:55

I feel myself and SteLacca are the only members of AW that should have strong opinions on this matter.

I can't speak for SteLacca, but I'm all for people eating pigs, cows, chickens, horses and each other, so long as they leave us ducks be.

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Replying to Constantly Confused:
By SteLacca
21st Feb 2020 15:42

Penguin, but the sentiment is taken and approved.

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Replying to SteLacca:
Quack
By Constantly Confused
21st Feb 2020 19:46

SteLacca wrote:

Penguin, but the sentiment is taken and approved.

So you are! I always thought you were a fellow duck...

Ok so penguin is off the menu too.

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Lone Wolf
By Lone_Wolf
21st Feb 2020 17:13

Am I the only one this article has put in the mood for a bacon roll?

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By Bryan T
22nd Feb 2020 00:24

I doubt if this would be defensible in a court. My human rights say I have a right to eat a bacon sandwich. So many other employment rights etc say I must be reimbursed subsistence allowance. I agree with the logic, but if they were my employer I would bring them to their knees. Not the right way to go about bringing change. Sending out the wrong message..

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By adam.arca
22nd Feb 2020 10:18

I'm glad to see from the comments that there's universal condemnation of this misguided policy with no one attempting to defend it.

At best, this is blatant nannyism (which I loathe) or, worse, it is cynical opportunism looking for free PR, market position and the already-mentioned virtue signalling.

As somebody has already said, most thinking people will accept the need for change in their diet and that means eating LESS meat not no meat. So, until the government ban the consumption of meat in its entirety (which is never going to happen), we all have the perfect right to carry on eating what we want in our lunchtime Greggs.

Or do these plonkers think they know better? Oh, hang on......

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Hallerud at Easter
By DJKL
22nd Feb 2020 15:16

Now that I have left the practice of accountancy my next venture will be an " Adopt a Sheep" charity, bit like the panda one and we will send you a toy cuddly sheep and updates how Lambchop is doing- given nobody is going to eat Shauns in the future, and farmers are not going to keep sheep unless they turn a profit, and they are not going to farm/grow much else on the higher ground in the Borders (anything much over 800 ft), my charity will buy up, at distressed rates, all the Border hill farms and you can all sponsor a sheep so when you drive up over the back roads in the Borders the top moors will not be totally deserted and at least the land will have some use; You can assuage your guilt that sheep no longer thrive on our hilltops because everyone changed what they ate.

Etterick is already fairly cheap land, with no sheep to run it will be even cheaper, James Hogg birling in his grave( vested interest, my great, great grandfather was an itinerant shepherd though not in the Borders but over near Achnacarry).

I have no problem with sensible environmental mitigation, but the word is sensible, if anyone can explain to me what replaces sheep on high ground I will listen, to date nobody has.

https://www.nature.scot/professional-advice/land-and-sea-management/mana...

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By ruth.julian
23rd Feb 2020 16:56

What I find hypocritical is that property development is far worse for the environment than stopping reimbursement of subsistence claims including meat. Vegans and vegetarians relying on imported foods to give them a balance diet, and eating foods like soya and avocado that have introduced monocultures and destroyed forests in the process, need to rethink how to live their ethics.

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Replying to ruth.julian:
Hallerud at Easter
By DJKL
24th Feb 2020 11:38

Why is that?

Whilst there is a carbon cost in building, (and demolition) removing an older energy inefficient building and replacing it with say a passivhaus newbuild does not seem that damaging over its whole life, in some circumstances it is the correct approach.

On other occasions recycling buildings (changing use) can be better for the environment.

Frankly knee jerk broad brush x is good or y is bad is why the public get herded down these environmental , one size fits all, false solutions- with any development one already looks at sustainability, we have been submitting Sustainability Statements for years as part of the planning process, and there is certainly no one size fits all, any site will have a different blend of competing environmental impacts. (And it is not just Carbon)

Development can even help removing livestock , within one development we agreed to remove cattle(lots of methane) from x hundred acres of farmland (I even have the phosphate mitigation calculations somewhere that were the basis for the section 75 agreement (S106 down south) ) in order to get planning permission to build on part of that site and we also planted 15,000 trees as part of that permission (the houses are now,eventually , starting to be built though the development is now unlikely to be finished before I retire- we only started in about 2000/2001 so about 25 years from acquisition to likely completion)

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By CJaneH
24th Feb 2020 12:13

I rather doubt vegan food purchased from catering outlets is 'green'

However humans have an omnivore gut and omnivore dentition. We have evolved to eat both plant & flesh.

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wolfy
By rob winder
25th Feb 2020 10:06

Their green credentials are second to none. They use hollowed out cabbages for safety helmets.

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