Oatly draws sharp criticism for taking investment from Blackstone Group

The growing demand that business needs to be transparent and ethical doesn't simply stop at the design of your value chain

Oatly - the plant-based milk alternative that rose to prominence in the US and around the world because the product itself is 'kinder to the planet' - has drawn some sharp criticism, and seriously pissed off some of their loyal customers, for taking a significant investment from Blackstone Group.

Blackstone Group is the largest 'alternative investment' firm in the world, and also one of the biggest residential landlords (taking an opportunity created by the 2008 financial crisis), has been accused of many dodgy business practices; including, forcing people out of their homes by sharply increasing the rent of the housing units that they control, being public about their support of Donald Trump, and investing in Brazilian soy agribusinesses that are profiting from the burning of the Amazon rainforest.

Oatly have rejected the criticism, saying that they need the money to expand their operations and are endeavouring to change the world of big capital 'from the inside out'.  

Blackstone makes up the bulk of the new $200 million round of investment, but to lubricate more favourable headlines for the deal, the likes of 'bunny-hugging' Natalie Portman, 'always saving the world' Oprah and 'rap superstar and Millennial-spokesperson'  Jay Z - were also cleverly brought into the investment mix.

So what?

What does this all mean for the future of capital procurement for alternative, 'green' brands - and similar business that need to grow?

Well, it means that if your brand has been created on the back of marketing something that doesn't harm the planet or the people that buy and enjoy it - then you had better make sure that the people at the company making these kind of big decisions, have some kind of integrity when it comes to the true intention of the business.

Oatly sells the promise that you - as a consumer - 'are making a positive difference by choosing to buy their particular brand of oat milk, instead of supporting the traditional dairy industrial-complex'.

Now - when you buy Oatly, you're just making the 1% even richer; and supporting a larger network of people who are conducting themselves in a way that is detrimental to us all.

Where's the sustainable, holistic, environmentally-conscious integrity in that?

The growing demand that business needs to be transparent and ethical doesn't then just stop at the design of your value chain, it also extends deep down into your true financial intentions and your sources of capital.

Sadly, as much as they don't really want to talk about it, Oatly have made a poor strategic move here.

Their customers support them because they are 'making a difference'.

Now it turns out that they are in fact, no different from the massive corporate machine that now funds them.


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