Oatly barista vs. Cow’s milk
Here are some cool and interesting facts. Well, at least we think so.
According to a recent LCA commissioned in 2022, Oatly Barista edition has a lower climate impact than comparable cow’s milk for all production facilities and markets analyzed. To be more precise, between 44% to 76% lower climate impact. In fact, according to the 2022 LCA, Oatly Barista edition has a consistently lower impact than comparable cow’s milk for climate change, fine particulate matter, terrestrial acidification, and freshwater and marine eutrophication, in all the markets analyzed.
By now you might be thinking “Oh that’s cool. But what’s an LCA? And hey pal, those are some heavy words right there.” We hear you. Let’s have a chat with Ashley Allen, our Chief Sustainability Officer, and hopefully, she can explain it to us. The words might not get easier though. Fair warning.
Hi Ashley, so help us understand, what is an LCA?
Hej! A life cycle assessment, or LCA, is an analysis of the estimated environmental and climate impacts of products or services during their life cycle. This 2022 LCA includes the life cycle stages from cradle to point of sale and an estimation of packaging waste management. This means that the impacts are estimated from the cultivation, processing and production of agricultural inputs, transport, manufacturing, packaging, storage, and distribution to the point where the relevant product reaches the market, plus an estimate of how people dispose of the package when they’re finished with it.
Why do an LCA?
Well, the 2022 LCA looked at two key aspects for our Oatly Barista: first, comparing its environmental impact to comparable cow’s milk in the six markets studied; second, looking at the top environmental impact drivers for Oatly Barista in the markets studied and identifying opportunities for Oatly to improve such impact.
So it’s about learning more about our products and our production and supply chain and having the right information and facts to improve.
So what did the 2022 LCA report find?
In particular, according to the 2022 LCA, Oatly Barista has a lower climate impact than comparable cow’s milk for all production facilities and markets analyzed.
So to me, the results of this LCA study highlight the importance and urgency in the need to shift to a more plant-based food system and to lower climate and environmental impacts.
What stood out to me is that Oatly Barista has a consistently lower or comparable impact than average cow’s milk in nearly all environmental impacts and markets assessed: climate change, fine particulate matter formation, terrestrial acidification, freshwater eutrophication, marine eutrophication, water consumption, and land use. For two other environmental impacts – mineral and fossil resource scarcity, Oatly Barista performed better than comparable cow’s milk in about half of the cases analyzed. We learned, for example, that the aluminum layer in our ambient Barista package in some of our markets contributes to mineral resource impact, and that using natural gas for our thermal energy needs at some of our factories contributes to fossil resource impact.
These findings underscore that working toward our sustainability ambitions, for example, 100% renewable energy and 100% sustainable packaging, are important for multiple environmental impacts.
Why do you say 44-76% lower climate impact?
Well, the 2022 LCA shows that the climate impact between Oatly Barista and comparable cow’s milk differs in the different markets and production facilities analyzed. This is completely understandable as there are variations in, for example, transport and supply chains, and variations for the production facilities when it comes to access to types of energy and water treatment facilities, as well as variations in cow’s milk production, among other differences.
Why does cow’s milk generally have a higher climate impact than Oatly Barista?
The main driver for the higher climate impact of comparable cow´s milk is the raw material production – essentially the animal production system for the cow’s milk. The climate impact in the animal production system is driven by processes such as enteric fermentation (e.g., cow “burps”), manure management, and feed cultivation.
What type of cow’s milk was Oatly Barista compared against in the LCA?
The data for cow’s milk differs from market-to-market and therefore the 2022 LCA is based on national data and statistics that represent an average country-specific market mix of skimmed, semi-skimmed, and whole fat milks. The 2022 LCA also assessed the most common heat treatment and packaging format for cow’s milk in each country.
How will Oatly continue to improve its sustainability efforts?
The 2022 LCA identified further opportunities across our value chain to reduce the climate and environmental impact of Oatly Barista. We can use the results to zero in on important drivers of those impacts and explore how these findings can help us prioritize our sustainability actions.
So, in short, there might be a few things to follow up on my to-do-list
In 2022, Oatly engaged Blonk Consultants, a leading international expert in food system sustainability, to conduct a comparative Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) of the environmental performance of ambient Oatly Barista to average cow's milk in six of Oatly's largest markets: Germany, Finland, the Netherlands, Sweden, the UK and the US.
The LCA was conducted according to the iterative, multi-step methodology proposed in ISO 14040 and 14044 LCA methodological standards (ISO 14040, 2006; ISO 14044, 2006), which included an external review.
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Source: Blonk Consultants (2022). LCA of Oatly Barista and comparison with cow's milk. Gouda, the Netherlands.
Notes: Derived from findings, comparing 1 L average cow’s milk to 1 L Oatly Barista produced in Ogden, U.S., Landskrona, SE, and Vlissingen, NL and sold in: Germany, Finland, the Netherlands, Sweden, UK and the U.S., including stages from raw material to point of sale and packaging waste management. Data for cow’s milk is based on national data and statistics that represent an average country-specific market mix of fat content, and the most common heat treatment and packaging format in each country. Statements/figures are subject to assumptions and limitations addressed in the LCA and should be read in conjunction with the LCA conclusions and critical review statement.