Now a wee dram can help the environment

by Published Wed 03 Jun 2009 18:23
The Scotch whisky industry has taken a pioneering approach towards greener distilling
The Scotch whisky industry has taken a pioneering approach towards greener distilling

Scotland’s whisky industry has this evening launched a major new environmental strategy with ambitious medium and long-term targets.

The strategy lays out a range of tough industry-wide goals, including a pledge to cut the use of fossil fuels by 80 percent by 2050,a move that would result in an annual saving of more than 750,000 tonnes of CO2 – the equivalent of taking 235,000 cars off the road.

Scotch Whisky producers have vowed to eliminate landfill waste from their packaging operations, reduce the weight of the packaging itself, and obtain future casks only from sustainable oak forests. The strategy, published by the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) after two years of industry input, also includes a commitment to maintain optimum standards of water and discharge management.

Gavin Hewitt, Chief Executive of the SWA, said: “Today’s launch of our first industry-wide environmental strategy is a bold move by distillers. We believe it demonstrates our commitment to securing Scotch Whisky’s future, addressing issues of the environment and the economy.

“Investment of over £100 million has been approved in environment-related improvements over the last 18 months alone. The good news is that we are making more whisky but already using less energy. Spirit production has increased by over 20 percent over the last decade, yet our energy efficiency has also improved by a similar amount.

“We are not newcomers to the environmental agenda but there is a recognition that we must do more across all our operations. We intend to work closely with our supply chain – 50 percent of our emissions are not under our direct control – so that we can jointly reduce our impacts on the environment.”

A number of SWA member companies have agreed to invest more than £100 million in sustainable initiatives such as bio-energy plants at Roseisle, Cameronbridge, and the Combination of Rothes Distillers.

Targets within the strategy have been set in two phases, by 2020 and by 2050, and the industry has said that it will publish results on a yearly basis to demonstrate what progress has been made.

Scottish Environment Secretary Richard Lochhead MSP said at the launch of the strategy at Dynamic Earth, Edinburgh, this evening: “The future of Scotland’s iconic whisky industry relies on our equally iconic and prestigious environment and the industry is ahead of the game with this pioneering strategy. If delivered fully,
these commitments will be of real benefit to our environment.”

He praised distillers for making the whisky industry the first in Scotland to commit to the climate change targets set by the Scottish Government for 2050, and underlined the vital part the sector plays in the country’s economy: “Scotland’s record export sales figures of over £3 billion for last year demonstrate the important contribution this industry makes. The whisky sector directly employs 10,000 people and 41,000 Scottish jobs depend on it, many of which are in economically fragile rural areas.”

David Rae, Chairman of the SWA’s Environment Strategy Working Group, described the industry’s targets as “stretching” but underlined that the strategy makes both good environmental and good business sense.

“Over the last two years, we have developed a comprehensive understanding of the industry’s impacts on the environment,” he explained. “This has allowed us to identify key areas where more can be done and a baseline from which to measure our progress.

“Our targets will only be met through industry investment and collaboration, coupled with the support, commitment and enthusiasm of government and our supply chain. This strategy is ground-breaking and is a clear signal of our commitment to take a lead on sustainability issues.”

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