The UK advertising watchdog has banned a high-profile marketing campaign by Swedish alt-milk brand Oatly after ruling its green claims were misleading.
The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) launched an investigation into the campaign after receiving 109 complaints from members of the public and the campaign group A Greener World.
In one national newspaper ad the company, which attracted investment from Blackstone, Oprah Winfrey and Jay-Z last year ahead of floating on the US stock market in May, claimed “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”.
The ASA said consumers would understand the claim to be a “definitive, objective claim that was based on scientific consensus,” when instead it was the opinion of one climate expert.
Oatly maintained that following a vegan diet would reduce a person’s environmental impact more than cutting down their flights, buying an electric car, or purchasing sustainable meat and dairy.
In paid-for ads on Twitter and Facebook, Oatly claimed the “dairy and meat industries emit more CO2 than all the world’s planes, trains, cars, boats etc, combined”.
However, when the ASA investigated the claim it found Oatley had “overstated” the emissions of the meat and dairy industry because the company did not take into account emissions covering the full life cycle of transport, only emissions when a vehicle is driven.
Oatly said it had no plans to repeat the claim and removed posts making similar claims from its own social media channels.
Furthermore, two TV ads, which featured children questioning their dads’ decision to drink cow’s milk, claimed that Oatly “generates 73% less CO2e v milk, calculated from grower to grocer”.
The ASA said it expected to see the blanket claim based on evidence comparing all Oatly products and types of cow’s milk. However, it was based on a single product.
“We concluded that because the evidence was not sufficient to support the claim as consumers would understand it, the ads were misleading,” said the ASA.
Oatly spokesman, Tim Knight, said: “It’s clear that we could have been more specific in the way we described some of the scientific data.
“We’re a science-based company and take pride in being precise, but we could have been clearer. We talk about these things a lot, because we want to make it easy for people to make an informed switch from dairy to oat drink.”
Oatly is the latest big brand to be called out by the ASA after a pledge the watchdog made last September to crackdown on unsubstantiated or misleading green claims being made by firms.
Last week, the watchdog banned ads run by Lipton, which is owned by drinks giant Pepsi, over misleading claims that all parts of its bottles are made from 100% recycled plastic.