Ewan Larkin
May 8, 2023

Oatly offers free advertising to dairy rivals willing to reveal carbon footprint

The Swedish oat-drink company has added information about its climate impact to products in the U.S.

Oatly offers free advertising to dairy rivals willing to reveal carbon footprint

Oatly is giving away free advertising slots to any dairy competitor that answers 68 questions about its own climate footprint. 

In January, Oatly started labeling several of its products in the U.S., including yogurt alternative Oatgurts, with information about the product’s climate impact. Now, the world’s largest oat-drink company is challenging dairy rivals to do the same. 

“The ultimate goal of the campaign is to advocate for transparency on the impact that products have on the planet so consumers can make more informed purchases,” said Oatly executive creative director Armando Turco, via email. 

Turco said that, while the climate footprint labels are a “standard-setting move,” it only truly “works for consumers if other companies follow suit.” A first call to the dairy industry, he added, made “natural sense.”

Those willing to answer the same 68 questions Oatly did will be rewarded with ads featured Sunday in The New York Times, Los Angeles Times and The Washington Post and on billboards in Times Square and Hollywood on Monday. 

As part of its challenge to dairy brands, Oatly listed statistics comparing its products to cow’s milk, saying that Oatly Barista sold in the U.S. uses 71% less water to produce than comparable cow’s milk, according to a 2022 Blonk Consultants study. 

Oatly itself has come under fire around sustainability concerns, some of which the company addressed in its F*ck Oatly website, which lists many of the brand’s missteps over the years. In July 2020, climate and political activists criticized Oatly for selling a stake to private equity firm Blackstone, which, one year earlier, was accused of contributing to deforestation in the Amazon. Oatly defended its decision, stating “this is the way to go if we want true change in the world.”

Two years later, Oatly was accused of overstating environmental claims in one of its marketing campaigns. The Advertising Standards Authority, the U.K. advertising watchdog, later banned the initiative after ruling Oatly’s green claims were misleading

“We’re a science-based company and take pride in being precise and thorough, but for example, we could have been more specific in the way we described some of the scientific data we referenced in our Help Dad campaign in the U.K.,” Turco said. “We took that seriously and have learned from it.”

Turco added that the purpose of its latest activation is not to make claims about its own climate footprint, but rather to “to advocate for greater transparency of information that consumers are increasingly seeking, and a call for other companies to follow suit.”

Oatly’s consumer PR agency, Sunshine Sachs Morgan & Lylis, supported media relations for the campaign, while Oatly’s Department of Mind Control, comprised of staffers in creative, editorial and comms, led creative efforts. 


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