Incident & Crisis Management

Navigating the challenges of global expansion with Oatly

  • Background: Since Autumn 2018, 4C Strategies have supported Oatly in achieving its goal of building a more resilient organisation with increased capabilities, including managing incidents and crises.

  • Challenge: As an organisation in a phase of rapid global expansion, Oatly needed a crisis management approach to match the requirements of its international profile.

  • Solution: 4C helped Oatly to develop an incident and crisis management model that works for all parts of a global, evolving, organisation and to build crisis management capability with annual exercises at local, regional and global levels.

  • Benefits: Using the 4C methods and expertise, Oatly has the benefit of a strengthened incident and crisis management capability, and continuous crisis management training on an international scale.

  • Customer: Oatly is the world’s largest oat drink company with a history spanning over 25 years. Beginning with one office and factory in Landskrona, the company now sells its products in over 20 countries and has been publicly listed on Nasdaq since 2021.

4C Strategies has been working with Oatly since 2018, partnering with the oat milk company through an exciting period of global expansion. Jonatan Jürisoo from 4C Strategies and Linda Nordgren from Oatly explain how to successfully increase crisis management capability within a constantly changing organisation.

Hello, Jonatan, you are the account manager for Oatly, tell us a little bit about yourself

Jonatan: “I am Senior Consultant and Head of Group Sales and Marketing Operations at 4C Strategies, and have worked at the company for over ten years. During this time, I have had different leadership roles, and also provided customer support in many different sectors. At 4C Strategies, we believe it to be very important that those in leading positions, including CEOs, should also work closely with our clients on projects. Before joining 4C Strategies, I worked on security policy and climate-related issues at the Swedish Ministry for Foreign Affairs and at the Permanent Mission of Sweden to the UN in New York.”

But today, we’re here to talk specifically about Oatly, how is the partnership working out for you?

Jonatan: “It’s working out really well. We are two companies with a very clear focus on results, innovation and quality, so it feels like we are well suited to each other. Oatly are currently in a phase of hyper growth, in which they are entering new markets and therefore want to rapidly increase their incident and crisis management capability. I’m very impressed with Oatly’s level of ambition; quality is their watchword and they have taken on this rather challenging task with enthusiasm.

Generally speaking, my experience thus far is that whatever Oatly does, they do it well. To a certain extent, they have compliance-related reasons for increasing their focus on incident and crisis management, but my general feeling is that they are doing this because they really do want to improve as they navigate the challenges that come with growth. And this is in the company’s DNA, so to speak.”

Hi Linda, what is the background to your partnership with 4C Strategies?

Linda: “A lot has happened at Oatly in recent years. We’ve gone from being a small company with just an office and factory in Landskrona, to a global company. Our incident and crisis management plan was no longer adequate for a global, dynamic, constantly changing organisation. We needed a new model that could grow with us, and that could work throughout our organisation. I have worked with 4C Strategies before and felt that, with its solid track record, it was a good partner for us.”

“I have worked with 4C Strategies before and felt that, with its solid track record, it was a good partner for us”.
Linda Nordgren, Global VP Crisis and Community management, Oatly

What’s happening at Oatly right now? What phase of development are you in?

Linda: “As Jonatan said, we are in a period of very strong growth, annually doubling our turnover. In addition to a growing organisation, with many new employees, we are also establishing new offices and factories around the world, while at the same time entering new markets. This is challenging, incredibly stimulating and of course absolutely wonderful!”

What do you expect to get out of the partnership with 4C Strategies?

Linda: “Support in formulating our own incident and crisis management model that works for all parts of our organisation, and that continues to work despite constant change. 4C also supports us with training and exercises across our regions, so that the model percolates down to all the relevant parts of the organisation. This will be a constantly evolving project for us.”

When is the right time to enlist external support regarding incident and crisis management?

Linda: “I’ve worked with crisis management and crisis communication for several years and have managed many major crises while working at the City of Malmö. My personal view is that it is incredibly important to have good in-house knowledge and experience when it comes to incident and crisis management. It must be second nature to the organisation, otherwise it will be very difficult to be agile and manage unwanted events in a good way.

Having said that, I’m also convinced that, when it comes to incident and crisis management in particular, it’s good to have an external take on things, to be able to get support –and especially advice– from someone with a different perspective, as there is no right answer to how an unwanted event should be dealt with.”

“Not everyone needs to be world-champion crisis managers, but some parts of the organisation often need to be.”
Jonatan Jürisoo, Senior Consultant and Head of Group Sales and Marketing Operations, 4C Strategies

What challenges do you see relating to establishing processes in an organisation that is growing as fast as yours is? What lessons have you already learned?

Linda: “The incident and crisis management model we have now established is relatively simple in its design, and its focus is on providing concrete support. The models and processes we are now establishing must be easy to understand – whether the employee has worked for us for a week or for a year, whether they work in Sweden or China, or whether they work in production or sales. Flexibility and scalability are key for us. Otherwise, the models and processes will not stand the test of time in a constantly changing organisation.”

Jonatan, back to you. Incident and crisis management sounds so serious. Do people think training is fun?

Jonatan: “Absolutely. It raises many important questions on many levels. In our crisis management exercises, we want to create a mix of commitment, seriousness, laughter and lively discussion. The gut-feeling people often get is that these issues need to be taken very seriously – and they realise that they weren’t quite as well prepared as they thought. These issues are often initiated at executive level, which makes it easier to get others in the organisation to commit. You also need to take cultural differences into account when you work with crisis management. Delivering an exercise for Oatly’s team in New York will be different to delivering one in, for example, Berlin, London or Shanghai.”

Will Oatly complete their incident and crisis management work? Is such work ever completed?

Jonatan: “Both yes and no. You’re never completely finished. We live in a changing world. Companies also change over time – people leave and companies expand, merge, or are sold. What is important is that the right part of the organisation has the right capability. Not everyone needs to be world-champion crisis managers, but some parts of the organisation often need these skills.”

 

"The models and processes we are now establishing must be easy to understand – whether the employee has worked for us for a week or for a year, whether they work in Sweden or China, or whether they work in production or sales."
Linda Nordgren, Global VP Crisis and Community management, Oatly

Jonatan: “Basic knowledge is normally enough for most employees – for example knowing what is expected of you when an unwanted event occurs. In other parts of the organisation, it can be a good idea to do a crisis exercise every second year.

But parts of the organisation that are exposed to high risk or are business-critical should have high incident and crisis management capability and therefore exercise more regularly and stringently. This is where most effort should be directed.”

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