Explained: People are suddenly saying they’re boycotting Oatly, but why?

Brb just learning how to DIY milk an oat

When I first heard Oatly was getting cancelled, I was so confused. Oatly? The oat milk company?? Does this mean I now have to switch to rice milk??? (I will never, as long as I live, switch to rice milk.) Thanks to a Twitter thread that emerged over the weekend about one of their investors, Blackstone, the world of Twitter seemed to turn on Oatly, with people saying they would boycott the company.

Back in July, Oatly sold a $200 million stake to a group of investors, led by private equity firm Blackstone. Blackstone have investments in a company that has previously been falsely accused of causing deforestation in the Amazon rainforest. Their CEO is also a large Donald Trump donor.

Oat milk is favoured by many vegans and non-dairy drinkers. It one of the most sustainable milks in terms of carbon emissions, land and water use. Here’s why people are now saying they’re going to boycott Oatly, because of their links with Blackstone:

As well as Oatly, Blackstone have investments in a company that has been falsely accused of Amazon deforestation

Blackstone have investments in a Brazilian infrastructure company, which has previously been accused of having links to deforestation in the Amazon rainforest.

However, a spokesperson for Blackstone told The Tab: “These are completely false allegations without any foundation”. Their website says the Brazilian company was “falsely accused of being responsible for the deforestation of the Amazon through the development of an industrial road”.

It goes on to say: “Environmental, sustainability and governance issues are central to [Blackstone’s] investment process, and the operations of our portfolio companies.” Blackstone’s spokesperson told The Tab the Brazilian company in question have also won awards for their “sustainability measures”.

Blackstone’s CEO is a Donald Trump donor

Blackstone’s CEO Stephen Schwarzman has donated $3.7million to Donald Trump’s 2020 campaign for reelection, Bloomberg reports.

A spokesperson for Blackstone told The Tab: “Steve Schwarzman has helped presidents of both parties on various initiatives over the years”, including Obama and Bush.

They also said any political support is merely personal: “Blackstone’s senior leadership team is a bipartisan group; in their personal lives, our people have supported candidates across the political spectrum for a multitude of individual reasons.” Other senior Blackstone executives have made donations to Joe Biden’s campaign and the Democrat party.

In July, a Twitter user asked Oatly: “Do you support Trump?”

Oatly replied, saying their investment from Blackstone may be an “unexpected choice”, but saying the investment “will help us expand our sustainable mission and create more plant-based products”, as well as making Blackstone’s investments “greener” by investing in Oatly.

They said: “We understand that partnering with Blackstone is an unexpected choice, however through this partnership we are able to get the leading player in private equity to invest in sustainability and to align their goals and values with our own which we believe is a massive positive step forward. It also steers capital that would’ve otherwise gone into another commercial investment into sustainability instead, making their investments greener.”

People are saying they’ll boycott Oatly because of it all

The original Twitter thread’s creator said: “I don’t want my money going to the destruction of the planet, and putting peoples lives and land at risk just so that I can have a creamy coffee in the morning!”

She said: “It’s frustrating when our limited choices are made harder by companies making poor investment choices, that bring financial gain to people with no environmental or ethical standing in this world.”

Oatly replied to the thread, saying: “We’re sorry to hear you’re frustrated in our choice – we’re still the same company with sustainability at the core of everything we do. Which includes who we choose as owners, as we need to move global capital in a sustainable direction if we’re to see real change.”

They said: “If we just shut out the companies that may make less sustainable choices, we won’t give them the chance to improve and make more sustainable choices, so global capital will keep being steered in a less sustainable direction.”

Upskirting activist Gina Martin tweeted, saying she is “so disappointed”. She said: “Oatly promotes a ‘non-profit mindset that informs the public about the sustainability advantages of a plant based diet.’ How can they do that now?”

People replied to her tweets, saying: “This is genuinely fucking gutting,” and: “Why can’t we have just one nice thing?”. Another replied to the original thread about Oatly, saying it was “another bloody product I like that I have to boycott”. 

Oatly said to Gina: “We understand our owners have investments that may not align with what we stand for – but what all our owners have in common is their belief in us and what we want to achieve.”

The Tab has contacted Oatly for comment. 

Related stories recommended by this writer:

Take this very important test and we’ll tell you what milk substitute you are

• PSA: Drinking almond or coconut milk is really, really bad for the planet

• What your choice of milk substitute says about your general vibe