February 8, 2021

Scotch Whisky Association launches ambitious sustainability strategy

The Scotch Whisky Association has announced a new sustainability strategy that will guide member brands through more eco-friendly practices over the next two decades. One of the major aims of this ambitious strategy is to achieve net-zero emissions by 2040. This announcement will also impact the packaging industry and the sustainability of the packs used for whiskies of member brands in the near future.

The new strategy comprises four main pillars; climate change, water responsibility, the circular economy and land responsibility. The Scotch Whiskey Association’s goal to reach net-zero emissions by 2040 places it five years ahead of the Scottish government’s 2045 target and 10 years before the United Kingdom’s 2050 goal. The association is also aiming to make all whisky packaging reusable, recyclable and compostable by 2025.

Many whisky distilleries make use of the Scottish peatland. This sustainability strategy will push member brands to take a proactive role in restoring and conserving the peatlands. All distilleries will need to work within a more responsible water use range and have water targets in-place by 2025.

Blocks of peat in Scotland


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

The Scotch Whiskey Association has had a sustainability strategy in-place since 2009, so this revision is going to build upon the foundations already laid. Over the past 10 years, members of the association have managed to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by one-third. In addition, nearly 30% of the energy used by the industry now comes from non-fossil fuel sources.

Furthermore, water efficiency has improved by 22% and just 1% of waste is now sent to landfill. This is a remarkable achievement considering that 75% of the industry’s waste ended up in landfills in 2016. These steps made by the whisky industry will set a good base for future sustainability efforts.

Scottish lighthouse on a rocky beach


The association is leading the way in the UK

The association aims to showcase these achievements at the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference (Cop 26) in Glasgow. “We are also proud that Cop 26 will be hosted in Glasgow later this year. 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,” exclaims Betts.

The Scottish Secretary of State, Alister Jack, has said that the association is leading 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 explains.

COP 26 summit set to take place in Scotland this year


The packaging industry will work alongside brands that form part of the Scotch Whisky Association to improve the sustainability of packaging through the use of recyclable and compostable substrates. This new strategy will not only push Scottish whisky brands but also packaging companies, logistics providers and key retailers that service the industry.

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