Why People Are Boycotting Oatly

Oatly is facing backlash for its ties to the Blackstone Group

Oatly, the Swedish oat milk brand whose popularity ushered in a new wave of vegan dairy alternatives, is facing a boycott by climate-minded fans and activists in light of a belated public realization that Oatly sold a 10-percent, $200 million stake to an investment group led by controversial private-equity firm Blackstone Group in July.

Blackstone, whose chairman and CEO is noted Trump donor Stephen A. Schwarzman, has invested in Hidrovias do Brasil, a Brazilian company that has been accused of contributing to the destruction of the Amazon rainforest through deforestation and the development of a highway to facilitate the farming and export of grain and soybeans. (The company refuted these allegations in a statement last fall.)

To protesters, Oatly’s link to Blackstone betrays the vegan company’s halo of environmental sustainability. Oat milk is seen as a more eco-friendly alternative to traditional cow’s milk, as well as non-dairy milks such as almond, the production of which involves heavy water and pesticide usage.

Oatly, meanwhile, has been replying non-stop to people’s objections on Twitter, writing that the company is still committed to doing “anything in our power to make the systems in which we operate more sustainable,” including global investments. “If we can bring about a change in this process as a driving force in the financial world to channel more capital flows into sustainability, then this is a first step in the right direction,” the company wrote in another tweet.

As Bettina Makalintal writes for Vice, “the situation highlights the challenges in ‘ethical’ and conscious shopping.” In order for sustainable companies to scale and take a bigger share of the mainstream market, they need capital, which usually comes from sources that are more interested in money than in the environment (“there is no ethical consumption under capitalism,” etc.).

And in other news…

  • The National Restaurant Association has launched a “Restaurant Revival” campaign to entice customers back to restaurants in a time when dining out still carries risks, especially to servers. [Restaurant Hospitality]
  • Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney has apologized for dining indoors at a restaurant in Maryland while restaurants in his own city aren’t open for indoor dining. [CNN]
  • In case you’re wondering why so many people on Twitter were joking about soup last night… [Heavy]
  • Champion and General Mills have collaborated to release a line of cereal-inspired clothing, which in my sartorial opinion could have used a bit more streetwear-influenced design than just sticking the Lucky Charms leprechaun on a T-shirt. [WWD]
  • 2020 in a butter sculpture. [Syracuse.com]

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