Reebok has banned soda at their U.S. headquarters. Is this a wakeup call for other businesses to be more involved on food issues impacting human health? Or is this a hornet nest that CEOs and business owners should avoid at all costs?
Soda is the new tobacco
The evidence is building that soda is the new tobacco.
Medical research has proven that our bodies are not designed to handle large quantities of ingested sugar. Ingesting sugar can lead to metabolic syndrome. Metabolic syndrome is not an illness but a set of human health risks. These health risks include high blood pressure, high blood sugar, unhealthy cholesterol levels, and abdominal fat. These risk factors DOUBLE the risk of heart disease. They increase the risk of having diabetes by FIVE TIMES!
Soda is the primary source of ingested sugar and artificial sweenters. Here are two key facts regarding the role soda plays in our national sugar overdose:
Just one 12 ounce can of regular soda contains almost 100% of the daily recommended amount of sugar intake.
The San Antonio Longitudinal Study found that drinking just one can of DIET soda increases tummy fat.
Is banning soda a fight worth fighting
The CEO question is whether banning soda is a fight worth fighting?
There is a very justifiable reason for CEOs and business owners to avoid banning workplace soda. Doing so will generate the same intense backlash as the efforts to ban work place smoking. Your work associates, maybe even you, are addicted to the sugar and caffeine in soda.
How addicted are people to soda? 30% of surveyed Americans say they would rather cut off their pinky than do without soda. Soda drinkers are so addicted to soda that they are wiling to suffer public embarrass to drink their sodas as evidenced by 3 out of 5 Americans admitting to belching or farting in public after drinking a soda.
But there are two reasons for considering a ban. The first is what most of us are comfortable with. It is managing costs. Your business is paying more for health insurance if your work associates are addicted to soda. There are a direct links between soda drinking, weight gain, impaired health and health care costs. Reducing/eliminating soda consumption will have comparable positive impacts on health and health care costs as banning workplace smoking.
The second reason is our genuine concern for people. We want to do what is best for our work associates. For example, for all the legal and financial reasons we implement work place safety, the core driver is that we do want to protect our work associates. That same sense of obligation now extends to their health. If we can do something to improve their health, shouldn’t we? Of course we should. And that “something” is to be ban soda in the workplace.
Best practices for banning soda at your workplace
The good news is that you do not have to pioneer how to ban soda in your workplace. There are now proven best practices for doing so that draws from best practices that overcome addictions. Four of these proven key steps are:
Acceptance. Starting this process with a ban on soda machines is the recipe for a human resources rebellion. That is because work associates are addicted to soda and will fight like addicts to keep their addiction. The starting point in confronting an addiction is to engage work associates on an awareness path that leads to their self-discovery that they are addicted to soda. A milestone event is when work associates begin to posting their “quitting statement” for themselves and others to read.
Create a plan. Similar to something like the 14 steps program, each work associate needs to be equipped with an action plan for kicking their addiction and sustaining it. What will they substitute for soda? How will they handle cravings? Who can they talk to for support?
Build consensus. Peer pressure (support) is critical to success. One work associate seeking to kick their addiction among a sea of addicted soda drinkers faces tremendous pressure to conform. Kicking addiction in a business is a team sport. It requires empowering work associates to form volunteer teams supported by management. It requires a business culture where front line supervisors are supporting work associates in kicking soda addiction as part of their supervisory commitment.
Leadership. The CEO or business owners is the ideal leader. There can be alternatives but nothing can really substitute for leadership from the top. This is a tremendous opportunity for a CEO or business owner to make or strengthen personal connections with their work associates. It is a great opportunity to get out of the office and back in front of associates. This will enhance the CEO or business owner’s authenticity, transparency and commitment to work associates. It will also enhance the CEO’s ability to engage in work associate conversations on traditional business issues.