Sustainability is a word that’s never far from the front pages these days. Businesses, industries, governments, individuals – we all have roles to play and obligations to meet. When the Scotch Whisky Association launched its new sustainability strategy last year, it showed that the industry is doing more than paying lip service. It has set itself net zero targets that far exceed those of the Scottish or UK governments.
Net Zero by 2040
The most ambitious component of the strategy is to achieve net zero by 2040. That’s five years ahead of the Scottish Government target and ten ahead of the UK Government. Yet while whisky distilleries across Scotland and beyond have committed to the pledge, many have set targets of their own that are still more ambitious.
The industry is able to speak with confidence about achieving so much so soon for one simple reason. Its members have been working on this for years. Industry leaders showcased at last year’s COP26 how in the past 10 years, the whisky industry has reduced greenhouse gas emissions by 34 percent and reduced the amount of waste being sent to landfill by an astonishing 75 percent.
Inevitably, the major international brands have the biggest impact. Chivas Brothers is the Scotch Whisky division of French beverage giant Pernod Ricard. Divisional CEO Jean-Etienne Gourgues told The Scotsman earlier this year that Chivas targets net zero distillation by 2026 and aims to be fully net zero by 2030.
It’s not just a case of the multinational conglomerates doing what they must to meet internal control requirements and keep shareholders happy, either. Smaller distilleries are doing just as much and often more. For example, one distillery in North Yorkshire set about being carbon neutral from day one, by working with ClimatePartner to measure not only the emissions from its own business operations but those of the complete supply chain. It also offsets its employees personal as well as business emissions through a tree planting programme.
Back in Scotland, some of the most ancient highland distilleries are also moving with the times and pursuing their own sustainability goals in addition to those of the broader industry. Glenmorangie, for example, has spent the past eight years working in partnership with the Marine Conservation Society and Heriot-Watt University on the Dornoch Environmental Enhancement Project (DEEP), which aims to enhance biodiversity by restoring oyster reefs to the Forth.
A short drive up the road at the Glengoyne distillery, meanwhile, you’ll find special edition bottles of whisky produced as part of their exclusive partnership with the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust. Glengoyne also performed a wholesale revision of its packaging strategy last year so it is now 100 percent locally sourced and recyclable.
These are just a few of the initiatives that are not just underway, they are embedded in the ethos and practices of distilleries large and small. That’s why they can confidently say they need only carry on carrying on to meet the broader industry’s long term sustainability goals.