Now you may well have seen this story already, but if not, and if you are part of the meat-eating majority, it may make you feel that the world really has gone mad. On the other hand, if you are a vegan, you may think, “about time.”
Igloo Regeneration, a property company with offices throughout the UK, has decided that the company has to “go vegetarian” for environmental reasons. This means they have taken meat off the menu for their workshops and corporate entertaining and if their employees submit an expenses’ claim for a meal that includes meat then it won’t be paid. The firm claims that there was overall backing for this policy in an internal vote.
This might be smart marketing (it has certainly garnered a lot of publicity), or it might be metropolitan virtue-signalling, or it might be an environmentally-driven and deeply-held conviction that meat eating is wrong. The environmental argument does have some basis, but there is also an increasing awareness that no-one has a monopoly on healthy eating and that it’s not hard to find problems anywhere you look (air-miles and the associated carbon footprint for avocadoes, huge amounts of water required for almond milk production), the what some think is the rather strange desire of vegans to give their food ‘meat-based’ names (vegan sausages, vegan steaks etc.).
However, all this does have some implications for businesses beyond the ethical/virtue-signalling ones. As we all become more environmentally aware and as governments increasingly try to push us into doing what they believe is ‘the right thing,’ there will be a need for accountants to help clients that goes beyond vegetarian expense policies. For example, from the start of the new tax year (6th April 2020), the electric company car taxable benefit will drop from 16% to 0%, then be 1% from 6 April 2021 and 2% from 6 April 2022. This will concentrate business-owners’ minds on more environmentally-friendly transport options as a result of the associated cost savings. Many big companies have joined the environmental bandwagon, whether out of genuine conviction or because they cynically think that if they don’t then they may lose business to those who do. In the next few years, it’s likely that more firms will come to the conclusion that the environment has to be uppermost in their minds as they formulate their strategies and processes. That's a good thing.
That said, I do wonder if the boot was on the other foot and a company insisted that it would not pay expenses to anyone who only ate vegetarian meals what the outcome would be. In fact, we all know – it would be a twitter ****storm from the rather vile world that inhabits much of that social medium. Is it too much to ask that we simply tolerate each other’s foibles a bit more while all thinking more deeply about what we can do to help the planet?
Julie Downie, Accounts Manager
For the record, M&S Accountancy & Taxation does not care what its employees eat or what they submit on their expenses for meals that are claimable in the course of business – only that they do so honestly and within HMRC’s guidelines.