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Scotch Whisky Association announces major sustainability strategy

The Scotch Whisky Association has launched a major sustainability strategy that will guide all member brands to more environmentally-friendly practices over the next two decades. The biggest goal of the strategy is to achieve net-zero emissions by 2040 across the Scottish whisky industry, placing Scotch Whisky Association members five years ahead of the Scottish government’s 2045 target and 10 years ahead of the UK’s 2050 goal.

While these targets are bold and ambitious, they are achievable and can set a solid foundation for a sustainable future. The sustainability strategy is built upon four pillars; climate change, land responsibility, the circular economy and water responsibility. Included in these steps is to make all whisky packaging recyclable, reusable or compostable as soon as 2025.

Many Scotch distilleries are located in rural peatland, which is a sensitive environment. The fresh spring water and underground channels found in peatland provide the distilleries with filtered water for their whiskies. This strategy will encourage member brands to take a proactive role in conserving and restoring the peatlands around their distilleries, as well as to implement more strict water usage policies.

Scotch Whisky Association believes targets are achievable

“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,” says the chief executive of the Scotch Whiskey Association, Karen Betts. “This is a great example of collaboration within our industry and with other organisations in our supply chain, the energy sector and in government,” she adds. 

The association implemented its first sustainability strategy in 2009, so this updated version is going to improve upon the stable foundations already laid. Member brands have reduced their greenhouse gas emissions by 30% since 2009. In addition, nearly one-third of the energy required by the Scotch industry now comes from non-fossil fuel sources.

Similarly, water efficiency has improved by 22% and just under 99% of packaging waste is recyclable or reusable. This is a noteworthy achievement considering that in 2016, 75% of the industry’s waste ended up in landfills. These are the current efforts and achievements that will only be improved by the latest sustainability strategy.

The association is paving the way

The Scotch Whisky Association will showcase these incredible achievements at the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference (Cop 26) in Glasgow. “The eyes of the world will be on Scotland, and on ours and others’ efforts to reverse the damaging impacts of climate change. We are looking forward to showcasing our industry’s contribution to global efforts to ensure our generation can arrest climate change and secure the future of our planet,” states Betts.

The Scottish Secretary of State, Alister Jack, has said that the association is paving the way for sustainability in the UK. “This initiative will work towards a sustainable future for Scotch whisky and tackling climate change – the biggest challenge of our time. The spirits industry is a key Scottish sector and this strategy is an excellent example of industry playing a part in the green industrial revolution,” he says.

The packaging industry will need to work alongside member brands to improve the sustainability and reusability of whisky packs. This will certainly include the use of recyclable and compostable substrates. This new sustainability strategy will push Scottish whisky distillers, packaging companies, logistics providers and key retailers that service the industry, towards a more environmentally-friendly future.

Header image ©Scotch Whisky Association

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Written by Joshua Oates

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