If you haven’t heard the news: Yeo’s has sealed a S$30million deal with Oatly to produce its famous vegan milk right here in Singapore, for distribution within Asia. While this is amazing news for foreign investments, it also comes hot on the heels of Oatly’s controversy of being associated with Blackstone Group, a private equity firm that has ties to deforestation in the Amazon forest. With this backlash, will Singaporeans still support Oatly in its Asian venture?
Also, it raises the question of greenwashing, a topic that’s becoming a fast-growing concern amidst the advent of sustainability and environmental awareness.
Sure, there are ways to circumvent the issue, like not supporting the company by avoiding purchasing it in supermarkets and boycotting businesses that use Oatly in their drinks. However, it’s hard to control consumer behaviour when it’s one of the most prevalent brands of dairy alternatives as well as the most accessible in terms of availability. Will an environmental issue so removed and physically distant from Singapore’s shore evoke empathy from locals here?
Another blindspot to many consumers is the greenwashing element of high production brands that aren’t transparent with the true impacts of their manufacturing and production processes. How often are we made aware of by-products and waste and how many of us are privy to how these externalities are processed before being disposed of?
It’s a tough call for anyone who wants to call themselves an advocate of “clean” brands, and that is why it’s so important to educate yourself on what you’re buying off shelves before tossing them into your cart. After all, living in a city, it almost feels like produce arrives already tagged with issues of ethics, sustainability, and environmental concern—it all depends on which of the lesser evil we choose.
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