Sustainability / Environment

Oatly Calls for Climate Labelling in the UK, Challenges “Big Dairy” to Publish Its Climate Impact

Oatly has launched a campaign calling for all food and drink producers in the UK to adopt climate labelling. The company, which already makes its emissions data public, has published a paper titled Climate Labelling: Why Not? to make the case for others to follow suit.

The report has been dubbed a “grey paper”, in recognition of the fact that “climate labelling isn’t a black and white issue where certain foods are good and others are not”. Oatly hopes to join forces with other companies to come up with an effective climate labelling system and put pressure on the UK government to make it mandatory.

“The food and drink we consume is responsible for a third of total UK emissions”

To promote the campaign, Oatly is offering free high-profile ad spots to the dairy industry if it makes its climate impact public; the billboards are next to ads displaying Oatly’s carbon labelling. The move follows a similar campaign by the company in the US earlier this year.

Polling by Oatly indicates that the majority of consumers (55%) are in favour of mandatory climate labelling, with this figure rising to 74% among under-35s. 48% of respondents said they would be willing to reduce their consumption of foods with a high carbon footprint, while 11% would eliminate high-impact foods altogether. Furthermore, Oatly points out that consumers are already given emissions information or energy ratings when making purchases such as cars and electrical goods, arguing that the same should apply to food and drink.

© Oatly

“Emissions must urgently come down”

Oatly has long campaigned for food system reform, telling vegconomist earlier this year that the current system “still clearly favours products of animal origin”. This is due to the subsidies given to meat and dairy producers and the tax disadvantages faced by plant-based foods in some regions.

While Oatly’s milk alternatives already have a significantly lower climate footprint than dairy, the company has announced that it intends to reduce its impact even further. In May, Oatly launched a global regenerative agriculture movement called F.A.R.M. with the aim of restoring carbon, improving biodiversity, and supporting farm viability. Through the movement, the company hopes to decrease the climate footprint of its oat drinks by at least 70%.

“The food and drink we consume is responsible for a third of total UK emissions,” said Bryan Carroll, UK general manager at Oatly. “Scientists, including the UK Government’s own Climate Change Committee, are clear that those emissions must urgently come down and that consumer behaviour change is a necessary part of that. Our view is that it’s unreasonable to expect this to happen when consumers are not being given the information they need to make informed choices. Given the urgency of our climate challenge, we believe it should be as easy for shoppers to find the climate impact of what they’re buying, as it is to find its price tag.”

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