From talking to many VLCM members, the vegan identity in the corporate workplace is tricky. Some colleagues will admire you or see it as your personal business. But your veganism might threaten some people and even your executives—and thus your career. (I have special admiration for our members who work in the “tough” industries—oil & gas, pharmaceuticals, chemicals, military, big food and so on. We need to be there! If we all left for the vegan small business, who would drive the change from within these mighty institutions?)
There are degrees of advocating veganism at work. Some like Mark Aggar at Microsoft (and many others!) have pushed their companies to adopt some vegan practices. I think we should be prepared to act on opportunities as they arise. And it starts with us saying “I am vegan” in front of our colleagues.
I believe it does two things: It gets your colleagues used to it (social norm) and it open doors to knowledge exchange.
Susanne Biro, VLCM’s Strategic Initiatives Director, was recently featured in the Forbes Coaches Council article; with major media and professional exposure. Susanne put “vegan” in the headline and in the opening paragraph. But she did not preach; she merely stated she was vegan and believed it to be a key lever to addressing major global challenges. I believe that was the sweet spot: It prompted people to want to learn more, without the automatic resistance to perceived agenda pushing.
Susanne shared afterwards that senior executive colleagues had commanded her for her values and “bravery”.
You probably also have more opportunities like this than you realize, including:
- When you are asked to be featured in a company newsletter
- During roundtable introductions at the beginning of a meeting or a social function
- When being asked to state any dietary preferences before a conference or a holiday party etc.
Lastly, this may sound ironic but the further away from a vegan stereotype you are at work (mainstream, conservative and having a “corporate” image), the more powerful your mention of veganism might be. Then if you are an overt vegan activist and if your company culture is good with that, you might also get extra spotlight opportunities being known as “the vegan” at the company. Just find the spot in the spectrum that is right for you!