Oatly misses the point that capital and capitalism are, by their very nature, unsustainable.
The announcement that Oatly, the oat-milk giant, has sold a $200m stake in its business to the Trump-supporting US private equity firm Blackstone was met with serious dismay from many of its customers.
Plant-based milk lovers from all over the world took to Twitter to “cancel” the Swedish brand, which struck the deal in July.
Blackstone has been linked to deforestation in the Amazon. The company has flatly denied all allegations of such links, but a report published last year in The Intercept makes a convincing case against the firm.
Oatly spokespeople were quick to take to Twitter themselves to defend the deal. "This investment has now given the world’s leading player in private equity the opportunity to steer their capital towards sustainability so they can make a positive contribution," the company stated.
"We understand our owners can have other investments that don’t fit with what we stand for, however they believe in us and our mission.
"If we just shut out the companies that may make less sustainable choices, we won’t give them the chance to improve and make more sustainable choices, so global capital will keep being steered in a less sustainable direction.
It went on: "Through the success of this investment, we want other businesses to see that it pays off to invest in sustainability, so more capital is steered in this direction in the future. Our goal to further the transition to plant-based for the sake of the planet has not changed."
Oatly claims it can change the world by 'steering capital in a more sustainable direction'. Perhaps this could be the way to defeat big, bad capital - simply get it to invest in things that are beneficial to people and planet, rather than damaging.
In reality, Blackstone simply wishes to invest in a rapidly growing company and see their investment pay huge dividends. Once the returns begin to flood in, they will no doubt then use this money to continue to invest in exploitative and extractive projects and industries.
We know that capital will jump on any bandwagon that might lead to an increase in profits, and sustainability is no different.
Companies will “pinkwash” during Pride or make a Black Lives Matter activist the face of a new campaign if it might attract more consumers.
Even McDonalds will try to convince us their meat is sustainably sourced in an attempt to “greenwash”.
If Blackstone is seen to be “doing good,” they are more likely to attract more partners and more investors, more likely to find their path to profit unfettered by government regulations and restrictions.
In its statement, Oatly misses the point that capital and capitalism are, by their very nature, unsustainable. The trouble is, ultimately there’s limited profit in things that are beneficial. Profit is all capital cares about - it's be all and end all.
You do not need to have read Karl Marx's tome Das Kapital to know that capitalism is a system built on growth. Capital only continues to function as capital so long as it continues to grow exponentially.
The best way for it to ensure its continued growth is to keep exploiting the planet’s resources and its people to the extreme.
Sewn into capital’s fabric is the drive not simply to make more money, but to make as much money as possible. Vampire-like, capital will not stop sucking until the blood has completely run dry.
Any hope that steering capital in a more friendly direction will ultimately get firms like Blackstone to change their ways is naive. We need a new system built on looking after people and the planet, rather than profit.
Angus Walker is a freelance journalist and blogger, publishing with the Brighton Journal and Left Foot Forward.