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Firm which trades on its veganism - but buys staff bacon butties

PUBLISHED: 10:19 22 February 2020 | UPDATED: 14:08 22 February 2020

The delivery of bacon and egg baps arrives at the Ethica offices, the self proclaimed vegan digital marketing company at St Giles House. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

The delivery of bacon and egg baps arrives at the Ethica offices, the self proclaimed vegan digital marketing company at St Giles House. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

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Staff at an ethical firm which boasts it is “vegan from the roots up” enjoy a special Friday treat – bacon and sausage butties.

The delivery of bacon and egg baps arrives at the Ethica offices, the self proclaimed vegan digital marketing company at St Giles House. Picture: DENISE BRADLEYThe delivery of bacon and egg baps arrives at the Ethica offices, the self proclaimed vegan digital marketing company at St Giles House. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Selesti - parent company of Ethica - stumps up for its staff to tuck into bacon, sausage and egg sandwiches which are delivered to the St Giles Street offices - a perk known as 'Fat Frydays'.

Ethica is an off-shoot of digital agency Selesti with which it shares an office, staff and even chief executive Oliver Blackmore.

Ethica has been awarded vegan certifications, with Mr Blackmore writing on social media: "So many companies are jumping on the bandwagon, exploiting the movement without genuine concern for animals, people or planet - putting profit before purpose.

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The delivery of bacon and egg baps arrives at the Ethica offices, the self proclaimed vegan digital marketing company at St Giles House. Picture: DENISE BRADLEYThe delivery of bacon and egg baps arrives at the Ethica offices, the self proclaimed vegan digital marketing company at St Giles House. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

"Being a certified vegan founded business adds credibility to the values we have to those companies and organisations we want to help grow. It also means assisting companies to become a force for good, to become more ethical."

But questions are now being raised about that "credibility" with one fellow ethical company boss saying customers "would be disappointed".

Mr Blackmore claims he has turned away work with brands which do not align with his company's ethics.

This includes an ostrich leather company, a greyhound race track and a sausage company.

The delivery of bacon and egg baps arrives at the Ethica offices, the self proclaimed vegan digital marketing company at St Giles House. Picture: DENISE BRADLEYThe delivery of bacon and egg baps arrives at the Ethica offices, the self proclaimed vegan digital marketing company at St Giles House. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

In another social media post he said: "As a vegan, I know how important it is that our clients and their customers can feel assured their shared values and ethical practises mirror ours."

However after being confronted about Fat Frydays he said: "No company can be 100% ethical. It's like setting up a company called dogood.com and only doing good deeds - it's impossible. We trying to promote inclusivity as well as helping the planet.

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"For example by contributing to the 1% for the planet organisation which means we contribute at least one percent of their annual sales to environmental issues."

The firm's breakfast habits were revealed by a whistleblower who said: "The ethical and vegan' office reeks of bacon."

When quizzed about why Selesti would not work with a sausage company but would buy bangers for staff, Mr Blackmore said: "It's a process and we're trying to move more in that direction but we can't bulldoze our staff with these policies. "We can't not hire people because they're not vegan. That's dictatorial and will put people off.

"From a personal point of view I would love it if the office was vegan but other members of senior management have different opinions."

When asked why the company paid for meat products for its staff instead of plant-based meals, Mr Blackmore added: "This is something we have looked at. We were going to do Veganuary this year but we missed it. We had a problem with the supplier we were going to be using.

"Since we started doing 'Frydays' we have seen meat consumption fall by about 50%."

He added that making the Ethica and Selesti offices meat-free would promote "exclusivity", saying: "When you go to other companies that work with vegan brands you see people eating cheese sandwiches."

He added that the revenue generated by Ethica was not used to pay for the bacon sandwiches.

Mr Blackmore said he came up with the idea for Ethica while cycling up Mount Fiji during a Japanese tour to raise money for Ric O'Barry's Dolphin Project.

But the news was described as "disappointing" by a fellow ethical business leader, Taylor Gathercole.

Mr Gathercole runs a sustainable firewood business out of Hingham, and said: "My view is that what you say outwardly should be what you implement inwardly.

"If I were a customer and I had gone to them because of how they market themselves, and then found this out, I would be disappointed.

"I'm a vegan and run an ethical business. But I'd have no problem in hiring staff who aren't vegans. However if I were promoting my business as ethical and pro-vegan, you wouldn't see me buying bacon sandwiches for staff. If they want a sausage sandwich, they can go out and buy it with their own money."

Why we called out 'vegan' company

Practice what you preach. A simple, but powerful idiom.

And when people take a stand, and are caught out not doing what they profess to live and die by, it rankles in a cutting way.

When we heard a firm that professes to be 'vegan from the roots up' was having bacon, sausage and egg sandwiches delivered to its offices, it screamed hypocrisy.

To make things worse, the orders were being made at the suggestion of management, rather than hungry staff taking it upon themselves.

That is why we took the step of going to their offices to witness the delivery in the flesh (so to speak).

When a company which claims to be vegan facilitates its staff eating meat - surely the most basic breach of vegan ethics - it deserves to have a mirror held up to it.


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