For the opening keynote fireside chat at FUTR Europe, Business Reporter talked to Toni Petersson, CEO of Oatly, about why company projects should be about making the world a better place.
What do you bring to the world? What do you bring to people and the planet? If you can’t determine that as your core contribution as a company, then why should you exist,” says Oatly’s CEO, Toni Petersson.
Stark words from Petersson, who’s speaking to Business Reporter on stage at FUTR Europe. Making the world a better place is the reason why he gets up and goes to work in the morning.
At Oatly, Petersson insists, they do and say the things that they really believe in. “Our mission is to look at the world in which we live and leave it better than it can be,” he says.
Making healthy, nutritious products that don’t recklessly tax the planet’s re – sources is the purpose behind the projects undertaken by the oat drink brand. “Over 40 million children under the age of five are obese,” Petersson says. “You see other diseases like diabetes rising, and that is really due to diet.
“How do we restore balance in society and our diets? That is the big question. We are so polarised.”
The company was created in the 1990s to promote a healthy alternative to animal based dairy products, borne out of scientific research from Lund University in Sweden. There, researchers developed technology whereby natural enzymes transform fibre-rich oats into liquid food.
“We try to look at nature and learn from it,” Petersson explains. “When you take the oats and chew and swallow them, what happens in the digestive system is exactly what we replicate.”
Unappetising though that may sound, the result is a product composed of a well-balanced combination of protein, carbohydrates and fats.
Science, says Petersson, is a part of the DNA at Oatly. It determines what type of projects the company produces, how they make them and how they communicate about them.
An important part of the science be – hind the projects is sustainability and the reduction of carbon footprints. Oat drinks generate about 80 per cent fewer greenhouse gas emissions than cow’s milk, he explains, while land usage is also cut by 80 per cent. “We just remove the middleman – the cow,” he says.
Petersson thinks most firms want to do the right thing. But, he cautions, people should also look to science to see if what companies and their followers are actually saying is really true.
This is why we should put our trust in science, not popular opinion, Petersson believes. “We need to restore science,” he says. “Should you believe in the blogger that has hundreds of thousands of followers, or your personal trainer or scientists?”