‘Misleading’ environmental claims from Oatly result in ASA sanctions

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has taken action against alternative milk brand Oatly for its “misleading“ environmental claims.

The ASA investigated five claims made by Oatly after receiving 109 complaints, including one from the campaign group A Greener World about a January 2021 campaign.

Two TV ads from Oatly’s ‘Help Dad’ campaign, two paid-for social posts and two press ads were investigated. Four out of five environmental claims fell foul of ASA regulation, resulting in ad bans and a warning to substantiate any future claims.

Oatly is the latest milk alternative to be sanctioned by the ASA after Alpro was issued a warning to tighten up its sustainable claims. The rulings form part of the watchdog’s greenwashing clampdown.

The claims that got Oatly in trouble

1. ’Oatly generates 73% less CO2e v milk’

2. ’The dairy and meat industries emit more CO2e than all the world’s planes, trains, cars, boats etc combined’

3. ’Today, more than 25% of the world’s greenhouse gases are generated by the food industry, and meat and dairy account for more than half of that’

4. ’Climate experts say cutting dairy and meat products from our diets is the single biggest lifestyle change we can make to reduce our environmental impact’

5. ’If everyone in the world adopted a vegan diet, it would reduce food’s annual greenhouse emissions by 6.6bn metric tons (a 49% reduction)’

Oatly responded to the complaints by listing its sources, including data from CarbonCloud, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and climate expert Joseph Poore.

In general, the ASA accepted Oatly’s research, but challenged that nuances in the claims were not made clear to consumers. There was one exception to this, the ad that used Joseph Poore’s evidence – here, the ASA found the ad to be misleading as it was the opinion of one climate expert and the word ’probably’ had been removed from the claim.

The ASA rulings aren’t the first time Oatly’s ethics have been scrutinized. In August, the Swedish brand faced boycotts after taking a startup brand to court.