Are you 100% sure your product is vegan? (Part 2 - Hospitality & services)
It’s not just vegan products or foods that need to be sure they can claim they are vegan.
In this second of this two part article, Lisa looks at the vegan hospitality and service sectors and how you can make sure that your business can fairly claim to be cruelty-free.
What the vegan hospitality business needs to consider
Whatever your hospitality business is, there are certain things that you definitely need to take into consideration. If you offer any food or drinks products, you and your suppliers need to ensure that you’re all agreed about what veganism is and that the products themselves are vegan (see part 1 of this article for more information). Are you making sure that the cleaning products you use are vegan? Is the hand soap in your lavatories and kitchens vegan? You may also want to start thinking beyond that, such as is your furniture vegan? You’d be surprised that many furniture glues are made from animal-derived ingredients.
Any staff members you have need to be fully trained about veganism. Even if they are vegan themselves, they may not have a full understanding yet, so it’s your responsibility to ensure you provide them with full vegan training. If they are not vegan then they should also understand that they are not allowed to bring any non-vegan food items to work, as this may cause a cross-contamination issue. However, you could provide them with your own food and use this as part of educating them about how wonderful vegan food is! Essentially, the most important thing to remember is that you are only as good as your least-vegan or least-understanding member of staff – so make sure that you educate each person not only about veganism, but why they must take all elements of veganism (and what they need to do differently) seriously.
For vegan B&Bs and hotels there are other specific areas to consider. Are the breakfast pre-prepared products you’re serving vegan (such as the cereals example in part 1 of this article)? If you provide toiletries in the rooms, are they vegan? The laundry detergent and conditioner you’re using for towels and bedding need to be vegan also. The bedding and mattress itself should be vegan, and you certainly shouldn’t be using any down bedding of course (and yes, there is such a thing as a vegan mattress).
It’s amazing just how many items in homes and hospitality establishments are made using animal-derived ingredients, so even if it’s not something you’ve considered before you should start considering it now. There may not be many vegans who are aware of these matters right now, but in a few years’ time you shouldn’t be surprised if you have prospective customers asking if your mattresses are vegan. So, if it’s not on your radar right now then put it on there as something you’d like to move towards in the future development of, and investment in, your business.
A great idea is to also ensure that you provide your guests with a list of local shops, cafés and restaurants which have amazing vegan options (in which case you need to do some digging to ensure those establishments also understand what veganism is and that they manage cross-contamination risks well). If you have any local vegan shops or eateries that’s even better, as you’re helping to support those vegan businesses as well as improving the experience of your guests during their stay.
For cafés and restaurants, if you’re a fully vegan establishment then the elements you need to consider have been covered between the products section (in part 1 of this article) and the above, from cleaning to staff training to hand soap to suppliers. However, if your restaurant or café also provides vegetarian products for example, then you have a lot of other things to manage. If you have drinks dispensers which dispense non-vegan drinks (as previously mentioned in part 1 of this article, some of which are Lilt, Fanta or Diet Pepsi), then you must inform customers that any drinks from that machine are not vegan due to cross-contamination, and you should have separate canned or bottled drinks to offer them.
You need to manage cross-contamination of food extremely carefully also. I have visited vegetarian cafés and witnessed some blatantly using the same knife to cut the vegan and non-vegan cakes. Whilst this is not a pleasurable experience for vegans, this can be a life-or-death matter for someone who is allergic to dairy if they have assumed that your food offerings labelled as vegan contain no dairy and that you manage cross-contamination properly. Make sure you’re thinking all of your processes through. Have separate fridges, utensils and preparation areas for vegan and non-vegan. Make sure your utensils are marked well (perhaps colour-coded) to indicate they are to be used for vegan products only. Ideally, you’ll also have separate sinks for cleaning utensils, cutlery and plates, and you’ll certainly also have separate cleaning cloths.
Make sure that your vegan products are served with definitive visual indicators so that customers are certain they’re receiving the vegan product or version. For example, you could have a vegan sticker which sits on the side of the plate, or a vegan ‘flag’ on a cocktail stick which you add to the food itself. You could even have plates which say ‘vegan’ around the edges – even better if they’re made by a vegan company and you’re giving back to the cause in that way.
Purchasing from other vegan businesses should be a core part of your business model whenever possible. Why buy vegan cakes from a non-vegan business when you could purchase them from a vegan business? It’s all about making sure we’re helping other vegan businesses thrive whenever we can and helping move the cause forward. So, whether it be your cakes, bread, or hand soap, to your drinks, furniture or base ingredients – if you can buy them from a vegan business then do. Then shout about it – make sure your vegan customers know that you’re not just about supporting the vegan cause through your own vegan business, but that you also support it by purchasing from other vegan businesses, and this is where their money goes all throughout the supply chain wherever possible.
It’s wonderful to see the increase in vegan service-based businesses. From vegan accountants to vegan virtual assistants through to vegan mechanics and vegan builders.
What the vegan service business needs to consider
It’s wonderful to see the increase in vegan service-based businesses over the past couple of years. From vegan accountants to vegan virtual assistants through to vegan mechanics and vegan builders, vegans are starting to connect their lifestyles with their skillsets to create vegan businesses. For service-based businesses most of the things I covered in part one of this article won’t be an issue for you.
However, there are other things you should be considering which you may not have contemplated before if you are trying to be as cruelty-free as possible as a business, such as who are your service suppliers? Have you checked if there are any vegan electricity suppliers in your country? For example, if you’re in the UK there is a vegan electricity company called Ecotricity. In the UK many energy suppliers use anaerobic digestion (AD) and biomass and both can contain by-products of animal farming – like factory-farmed livestock, slaughterhouse waste, fish parts, and animal slurry.
Do you look to support other vegan businesses and professionals to make sure as much as your company’s earnings are going towards other cruelty-free businesses? For example, who is your accountant? Can you switch to a vegan one? Do you outsource your social media, and if so, can you switch to a vegan social media specialist? Where do you source your stationery and is there a vegan company you could purchase from as your main supplier? Do you have any old leather chairs in your office (from your pre-vegan days) which you could sell and give the money to a vegan charity or sanctuary, and then buy some new office chairs from a vegan business?
Your mission should be to think inside and around your business as much as possible to ensure that it is as vegan and sustainable as you can make it. You should do this not only because it’s the ‘right’ thing to do and because you’re helping other vegan and ethical businesses in the process, but also because if you’re talking to your customers about making your business as vegan as possible throughout your entire chain of suppliers and why you’re doing this, then it sets you apart and really adds value and authenticity to your business and story.
Why it’s important you get it right
If you don’t get this right, then you can be sure that someone else is going to. Then, if your customers are given a choice of whether to purchase from you or the other vegan company who is getting it right, you know where they’re going to put their money. You must take veganism seriously; and even if you’re a long-standing vegan who does take it seriously, you must take it even more seriously when it comes to your business.
It takes just moments for getting it wrong to go viral. Once it’s out there, you can’t get it back. I’ve seen genuine honest mistakes from vegans not knowing enough or not thinking things through enough, and I’ve seen those mistakes cost them their business and passion. There is information to help us all, we just need to be switched on enough to seek it out. We must understand that there is no ‘top level’ vegan who earns gold stars in everything and knows veganism inside out – and if you think that this is you, then I’m afraid that you’re the one who is most likely to make a mistake. We don’t know it all, even when we think we do. Keep learning and keep asking.
If you are not selling a physical vegan product, what can you do to prove that you are actively doing everything you can to further the vegan cause? Do you just happen to be a vegan in business who wants to work with other vegans? Or, are a percentage of your profits supporting an animal sanctuary, or are you involved in campaigning and education work as your company’s side-hustle? Not only will you feel great for doing it, but it will really help boost your vegan credentials as a business.
Once you are certain you are doing what you can to make your business cruelty-free, then shout about it! There are various different vegan certifications you can embrace for products, but few credible ones for businesses. However, look at joining the Vegan Founded movement to show that your company was founded and is run by vegans – a number of our VBT members are already part of Vegan Founded and are proud to shout about it!
So there – now you have your plan! By really thinking this through you’re likely going to have more of a vegan business than most. So, as you’re hitting each milestone on your vegan business route map make sure you’re shouting loudly about it at every stage. You can do this, and we’re all behind you!
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