A pig farm outside Las Vegas used to receive 20 tons of food waste a day from restaurants and casinos. But now the Strip is closed, and the farmers are struggling to keep their animals fed.
The farm – Las Vegas Livestock — has around 4,000 pigs, according to a local report. In a month, the owners of the farm think that without the Strip’s food waste, they’ll be down to 2,000 hogs. A crushing blow for the already thin margins farmers operate in.
As the coronavirus pandemic continues to spread deeper into communities, the ripples grow increasingly wide. Businesses and lives that seem far removed from government shelter-in-place orders are acutely affected by the intertwined system of commerce we call the economy.
It doesn’t seem right that the Las Vegas Strip should ever churn out over 20 tons of food waste per day — that’s an unimaginable amount, even in boom times. But who wants local pig farmers to go out of business?
The pig farm’s predicament isn’t strictly a compliance problem. But it demonstrates what happens when there’s a big disturbance in the economy. As Warren Buffet said in a 2004 letter to investors, “Only when the tide goes out do you discover who’s been swimming naked.”
The economic tide is going out now because of the coronavirus crisis. Businesses, and the compliance professionals inside them, are going to be confronted with a multitude of tough decisions. Some of those decisions will result in lost jobs and even lost companies.
Every compliance pro knows the dilemmas when business needs collide with ethical issues. Should we reduce food waste, or do we keep supporting local farms? Who better to lead a discussion like that than a compliance officer?
The first priority for a compliance professional might be a mandate to help their company comply with legislation and regulations. That’s the technical side of the job. But many people in the compliance industry I’ve talked to view what they do as more than that. It’s also an ethical calling — looking at what’s best for individuals, companies, and societies.
As the ripples from the coronavirus pandemic tear through economies the world over, it’s going to be tough, for sure. Should we reduce food waste, or do we keep supporting the local pig farmers?
Just by asking the right questions and helping focus the coming discussion on both business and ethics, compliance professionals can help shape a more thoughtful future.