Quantifying Oatly's Green Ambitions: Sustainability and the Quest for Transparent Business Behavior

Jonas Fribo-S√łndergaard & Loris Spasojevic

Student thesis: Master thesis


Purpose: With a single-case study on Oatly, this paper aims to examine how a life cycle assessment (LCAs) can help facilitate Corporate Social Innovation (CSI) in a purpose-driven company. The thesis contributes to research on organisational innovation and develops a novel theory on the development of sustainability strategies with quantitative methods.
Design/methodology/approach: The paper is an in-depth single-case study of Oatly. Primary data was collected with Oatly's sustainability expert, Damberg and creative director, Ringqvist. Furthermore, we completed interviews with Israeli, a representative of Oatly's LCA partner, Carbon Cloud. Lastly, to deep dive into LCAs, we were able to interview Hauschild, a renowned quantitative sustainability professor at Danish Technical University. Our study is inductive and uses qualitative data to explore how actors shape the underlying mechanism of sustainability strategies.
Findings: This project can provide research on the collaborative effects of LCA and CSI. Thus, with novel theory, we can suggest that the cooperative results of LCA and CSI can help companies integrate social innovation into their strategy and operations, which subsequently could help a company either maintain or gain a competitive advantage through sustainability. The LCA metrics were able to facilitate an increased level of institutionalisation of CSI at Oatly. Our research provides awareness of the underlying mechanisms and the conditions that encourage sustainable corporate development.
Research implications: We have conducted a contextual study of the case company Oatly and the important actors involved. As a result of this, we are unable to objectively generalise on corporate implementation of sustainability practices, based on the conceptual consequences of our research. We've identified the need for standardisation of simplified LCA that apply to corporate logics. A lack of standardisation increases the risk of misleading data and biased agendas. Further research may validate our framework on CSI and LCA, and look to explore potential methods of standardisation.
Originality/value: The current research is novel because neither an empirical or a theoretically grounded conceptual framework has been suggested to examine how corporate social innovation and life cycle assessments relate to each other, and whether the theories provide a combinative value. With our study, we hope to shed light on the importance of sustainable governance, and the facilitation of a corporate culture that empowers quantification tools.

EducationsMSocSc in Organisational Innovation and Entrepreneurship , (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
Publication date2020
Number of pages137
SupervisorsJacob A. Hasselbalch