Just as we dropped an article on the life of Oatly, readers quickly drew our attention to the news that broke earlier this week. For those who also missed it, it recently became public knowledge that Oatly has partnered with Blackstone Group; an investment company chaired by Stephen Schwarzman.
The Blackstone Group part own companies (Hidrovias do Brazil and Pátria Investimento) who are responsible for Amazon deforestation. Add in the fact that Stephen Schwarzman is a top donor to President Donald Trump, and long-time supporters of the brand are unsurprisingly questioning this move.
So, now we’re asking the question, has Oatly sold its soul?
In response to one customer who vowed to boycott the Swedish brand, they wrote: “We’re still Oatly, and it’s our belief there needs to be a shift in the capital stream toward sustainability investments if we’re to see any – real – change. That’s why an investment from Blackstone is a huge step forward for plant-based foods.”
Continuing with damage control, the brand took the time to respond to several critics, as they questioned: “isn’t it better that a big investment company spends their money on a sustainability company instead of something else?”
In a post on Instagram, Laura Young of @lesswastelaura argued that: “enormous profit earned back from this investment will fuel earth-shattering projects; aka Amazon deforestation and Trump! Not good news. Specifically, Oatly’s 10% owned by Blackstone, with a projected profit of $400 in 2021, will gain Blackstone an estimated $40 Million.”
She also added, “accepting investment from big firms and then saying a small brand is going to try and influence them is naive. In this case, Oatly is a tiny fish in the huge ocean of Blackstone, and to think they can influence the likes of them is not a good reason to accept money tied up in all sorts of evil.”
Now that the Blackstone Group has a 10% stake in Oatly, can a brand that is on a mission to turn consumption into “moments of healthy joy without recklessly taxing the planet’s resources” really make a difference or have they royally fucked it?
While we highlighted their approach of bold choices and risk-taking, is this is a risk that won’t pay off? Right now, no one has the answer to that.
As the discussion opened up on our Instagram post, @thehouseofpalms asked: “Do you think it’s possible to grow to that kind of global scale as a conscious company without taking money from ‘the bad guys’?”. An excellent question indeed.
As Oatly argued taking their new investment was out of a need to grow, making it easier for people to make sustainable choices opposed to greed, will some consumers buy into this and continue to support them? Are they genuinely doing this for the greater good? (We know, SO many questions).
At the time of releasing the life of Oatly article, we had no idea about Oatly’s partnership with the Blackstone Group, which begs the question, how well do we know the global brands we support?
When we take a moment to consider how many investors back global brands, can we wholeheartedly say we take the time to investigate who’s pockets our money is lining?
As consumers, our choices ultimately come down to personal beliefs. What makes a ‘bad brand’ or a ‘bad investor’ to some, might have zero influence on another shopper. While the original oat milk brand has undoubtedly lost some customers with this move, other’s may knowingly decide to support them. As for those who have no idea, they’ll continue to enjoy Oatly with the belief that they’re choosing a more environmentally friendly option than cow’s milk – which is still accurate when you take away the bigger picture.
The reality is, most consumers will buy into a brands ethos without doing due diligence – if they like a brand, they’ll take it at face value. Is it about time consumers started looking at the brands we support more closely? Only you know the answer to that question. Let us know in the comments!