Oatly proudly sells its products with the slogan “wow no cow” – not though in Sweden where the company lost a lawsuit. But even ‘liberal countries’ (citation from Oatly’s website) such as the UK were not amused about an advert campaign in January shaming milk-drinking dads and moms (source).
It gets more complicated when we look at Oatly’s largest shareholder China Resources Group (CRS). As a state-owned enterprise, CRS is obliged to support the Chinese Governments poverty alleviation policies. The company has a partner region in Ningxia where CRS builds a gigantic industry and value chain to help the poor. Guess what that industry is about … wow, cows!
For those familiar with China’s industrial poverty alleviation, the alarm bells will ring when they hear that CRS’s engagement targets Hui Muslims who have been victims of repression and labour camp internment together with Uyghurs and Tibetans. For these minority groups, poverty alleviation schemes entail a high risk of forced labour, forced relocation, and forced alienation from their religion and culture.
CRS is the sole owner of Runlian Technology. In November 2020, Runlian reached a strategic cooperation agreement to help develop smart cities. From a human rights perspective that is problematic because smart city technologies can be used for large-scale surveillance (source). More problematic is that these smart city projects are all located in Xinjiang the home region of the Uyghur minority. Even more concerning is that Runlian’s cooperation partner is the 12th division of the notorious Xinjiang Production and Construction Corp. (aka Bingtuan).