Vegan Leaders in Corporate Management (VLCM) was born out of the idea that there had to be many vegans in the corporate world…what if they were more visible and united?
It all started as a one-person initiative in 2014. Darina Bockman, a 35-year-old finance director at a Fortune 500 company, had felt firsthand the (unnecessary) divide between the vegan world and the corporate world.
“I never felt like a typical vegan because I was a very career-driven corporate person wearing suits.” says Bockman. “All the same, going vegan was an obvious and empowering choice – mostly for the animals in my case.”
After several years it had dawned on Bockman that despite having a vast professional network and a vast network of vegan friends, she could hardly name anyone who crossed between those two worlds.
Bockman set out to locate other “corporate vegans”, using LinkedIn keyword searches and creating a group that quickly grew past the first 100, then 1,000 members.
“No other vegan groups were doing this, and I thought it was a huge untapped opportunity” reflects Bockman. “Corporate influencers are some of the best paid and most powerful people in our society, and a potential backbone of any movement.”
“I was astonished to keep finding high-up leaders—working on Wall Street, in top technology and engineering firms, in pharma and biotech and so on—who mentioned a vegan interest in their LinkedIn profile. Many of them did not belong to any vegan groups, and many admitted they felt lonely. Once our group grew to an initial critical mass, it became exciting to start connecting people with other vegans within their companies”.
Bockman kept building the group and fine-tuning the purpose of the group. In not too long, the group was run by a half dozen of professionals passionate about this concept.
“My job is all about finding answers to the toughest global business problems through analytics,” notes Sumeet Mahajan, an analytics and supply chain expert at a top consulting firm and a leader of VLCM’s information innovation. “I found immense value in joining this group. Then I began contributing as a core team member because I saw this as a natural extension of my job—people from all over the world trying to help find answers to the greatest problems being faced by our environment and by our conscience.”
The group had another significant milestone when Susanne Biro, an executive leadership coach, joined the management team. Susanne helped establish the VLCM Advisory Board and challenged the team to come up with a tangible strategic purpose—something to be known for.
“My passion is to identify key levers to significant positive change,” shares Biro. “Veganism can address so much of what concerns the human race—and what should concern companies today. Whether it be health, wellness, productivity, or healthcare costs, diversity and inclusion, the environment and/or social responsibility, organizations can and must participate. VLCM provided a natural platform to help bridge this opportunity. We have many senior leaders in our network. We decided to form a program to help them advance vegan values and options inside their own organizations.”
Consequently, in early 2017 VLCM launched a formal Corporate Initiatives program to help more companies embrace the growing vegan and plant-based trends as part of their employee wellness, diversity, green or other efforts. For many companies, veganizing their product offering could even grow their market—and VLCM is in a unique position to connect companies with the helpful expertise.
Besides Corporate Initiatives, VLCM taps the vast intellect of its member base in other ways. The group has an active member directory and a discussion group on LinkedIn as a mobilization platform for more initiatives. The group cultivates influencers and works to redefine the social norm with respect to veganism.
“The underlying motive was to change the perception of vegans in the corporate world, and the perception of corporate in the vegan movement,” concludes Bockman. “Vegan and corporate were never previously thought as compatible, and that was nonsense. Our group shows that veganism is a logical answer for high achievers in business, and that far from it being a threat, it could be the next big thing for the corporate world.”