A new sustainability strategy for the Scotch whisky industry has committed to dramatically reducing the sector’s environmental impact, including helping it to reach net zero emissions by 2040.
The industry’s revised Sustainability Strategy, unveiled by the Scotch Whisky Assoication (SWA) on Monday, focuses on four main themes: tackling climate change, using water responsibly, moving to a circular economy, and caring for the land.
It builds on progress made by distillers over the past decade and commits the industry to working collaboratively with partners and government to achieve its goals.
Further commitments in the new strategy include making all new product packaging reuseable, recyclable or compostable by 2025, playing an active role in peatland conservation and restoration in Scotland, and ensuring all producers are within a responsible water usage range by 2025.
The SWA has set its sights on this year’s COP26 climate change conference in Glasgow as a platform to showcase the industry’s environmental work.
This new plan comes 12 years after the Scotch whisky industry’s first Environment Strategy, the first of its kind to cover an entire sector. Since then the industry has made significant progress including a 34 per cent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, increasing the proportion of primary energy from non-fossil fuel sources from 3 per cent to 28 per cent, and improving water use efficiency by 22 per cent.
Karen Betts, CEO of the SWA, said: “The Scotch whisky industry’s new Sustainability Strategy is both ambitious and achievable. A huge amount of work has gone into its development and is now going into its implementation. This is a great example of collaboration within our industry and with other organisations in our supply chain, the energy sector, and in government.
“This is close to distillers’ hearts because we know we must protect the natural environment. We depend on natural resources – water, cereals, yeast – to make Scotch whisky. Scotch has been produced for 500 years and we want to ensure that it is being produced for generations to come.”
Terry A’Hearn, CEO of the Scottish Environment Protection Agency, said: “The Scotch whisky industry is an incredibly forward-thinking sector when it comes to sustainability, and is already among the most environmentally compliant sectors that we regulate.
“Amid a climate crisis when industries need to act to protect the natural environment, this new Sustainability Strategy demonstrates the commitment of the Scotch whisky industry to maintain its position as an environmental leader, containing ambitious targets that will help to ensure a green future for Scotch whisky producers large and small.”
Roseanna Cunningham, environment and climate change secretary, said: “Whisky production is part of our industrial and cultural landscape, and is a key part of our identity as a nation. It is vital for prosperity and employment, especially in rural and island communities.
“I welcome the Scotch Whisky Assocation’s new Sustainability Strategy, which aims to pave the way for the sector to reach net zero by 2040, positioning efforts alongside our national ambition to end Scotland’s contribution to climate change.”
Energy minister Anne-Marie Trevelyan added: “We are already helping Scotch whisky to take a lead on low-carbon production with £10 million investment and it’s fantastic that this new strategy is taking that even further by helping one of our most cherished industries also become one of our greenest.”
25 January 2021 – Bethany Whymark