Minor Figures oat ‘milk’ product is much more sustainable than dairy milk through both its ingredients and production resulting in a naturally high planet rating. The company’s active efforts to make its processes carbon neutral and minimise its production of waste as well as its commitment to advance SDG goals make its score especially high.
Minor Figures’ oat milk product is made up of water, oats, rapeseed oil, tricalcium phosphate, calcium carbonate and salt. Oats are grown in cooler climates and do not drive deforestation in developing countries. They also do not require a lot of water to grow, so fundamentally are much more sustainable than milks that have more resource intensive ingredients. Minor Figures also tries to source its oats locally from the UK and other areas within Northern Europe to minimise emissions and are transparent about needing to source from other parts of the world due to seasonal needs. It also donates the leftover oat residue created as a byproduct of processing its oat milk as livestock feed, reducing both their waste and land usage from land that is dedicated to growing livestock feed.
Rapeseed oil, however, is not so sustainable in the way it is often grown. Farmers generally use nitrogen fertilisers to maximise yields resulting in some of it being washed into rivers and ground water by heavy rain which pollutes water systems. As the company has not specified how theirs has been grown, we cannot assume it is sustainable. Its packaging is fully recyclable currently being made using Tetra Pak. This is not recyclable everywhere, which can make disposal an issue, but to tackle this, Minor Figures has established its own recycling scheme. Given the core ingredient is more sustainable than alternatives, its planet rating is still high.
Minor Figures is very transparent about its environmental impact. It explicitly states that the oat milk product produces 0.41kg of CO2 emissions as a result of burning fuel and using electricity. Minor Figures is a carbon-neutral company so it offsets these emissions as I will go into in the next section. Oat milk alternatives in general use up much less resources than cow’s milk. The production of oat milk on average leads to 80% less greenhouse gas emissions, uses 60% less energy and uses about 10 times less water than dairy milk. For instance, Minor Figure claims that its customers have saved over 20,000 tons of CO2 emissions since July 2018 from choosing oat over dairy.
Its recycling scheme ensures a continued use of the materials and reduces the carbon footprint compared to alternative collection methods like kerbside to landfill collection. It also has refill stations in some stores to further minimise the waste created from its products with over 180,000 cartons being saved since March 2020. The company’s active efforts to reduce its waste and the less resource intensive production of oat milk result in the product’s high rating once again.
Minor Figures makes plant-based, 100% vegan coffee and oat products (and also supplies some merch including socks and a frisbee!). The company has been transparent about how exactly it has become carbon neutral. It worked with independent climate action advisory firms to assess the environmental impact from its business operations, how to improve its processes and assess which offset programmes would have the greatest impact.
The company actively carries out initiatives to offset the emissions created from its products and those generated from its team (through commutes to the office, meals, utilities, paper and other transport they take). It also allows their customers to vote on which projects to go for on Instagram. For example, projects include planting 1 million bamboo trees and reforestation in Colombia. A case study includes a project where they provided clean, energy-efficient cookstoves in households in Peru. This had positive impacts on the environment and on local communities that often suffer the most from climate change by creating jobs, improving health outcomes (such as preventing respiratory problems by replacing the use of open fires with cookstoves) and reducing emissions.
There is a clear benefit in terms of PR from these projects, but the positive impacts generated show the company’s commitment to advancing SDG goals. This along with its transparency with its own operations gives it a high sustainability rating.