Scotch Whisky industry on course to reach green targets

10 Dec 2015

Progress report shows environmental commitment

The Scotch Whisky industry continues to lead the way in sustainability and is on course to meet its ambitious environmental targets, a report published today (10 December) shows.

Only 2% of waste from Scotch Whisky packaging operations went to landfill last year, down from 13% in 2008. And use of non-fossil fuels to generate energy was up to 17% in 2014 from 3%, according to the latest industry Environmental Strategy Report from the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA).

The Scotch Whisky industry launched its Environmental Strategy in 2009 with a set of ambitious targets driving sustainability, such as reducing greenhouse gas emissions, moving away from fossil fuel, sending no waste to landfill by 2020 and managing water requirements effectively. It is still the only strategy in Scotland covering an entire business sector.

Key findings of the new Scotch Whisky Industry Environmental Strategy report, based on 2014 figures, include:

  • Reducing greenhouse gas emissions: energy use has increased by just 14% since 2008 despite spirit production growing by 20% to meet demand, so efficiency has improved. Greenhouse gas emissions were down 1% in absolute terms between 2008 and 2014.
  • Reducing reliance on fossil fuels: The growth of non-fossil fuel use to 17% is partly a result of multi-million investment by Scotch producers in renewables at distilleries which has increased by more than 200 per cent since 2012. This investment includes new boilers using woodchip and pellets, UV solar panels and energy from distillery by-products, such as biomass and anaerobic digestion.
  • Net water use is down 14% since 2008: Companies work closely with the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) to ensure water is managed responsibly.
  • Average weight of packaging materials is down from 6.62kg in 2008 to 6.56kg last year (per 9 litre case): The trend is in the right direction but the industry, and suppliers, need to rise to the challenge of reducing packaging weight at the same time as consumers demand premium products in elaborate, and often heavier, bottles.

The publication of the report coincides with SWA chief executive David Frost delivering a keynote speech at an event in Edinburgh: '2020 Climate Group, Rewiring the Economy'. At the event at the Edinburgh Centre for Carbon Innovation designed to demonstrate a collaborative business-led approach to sustainable growth, Frost explained how the Scotch Whisky industry works with its supply chain and governments to achieve sustainability.

David Frost, Scotch Whisky Association chief executive, said: "While world leaders gather in Paris to agree climate targets at the COP21 United Nations conference, we are in Edinburgh discussing how businesses, governments and other stakeholders can promote sustainability. We believe our Environmental Strategy is a great example of what can be achieved by an industry working in collaboration. Our progress report, published today, shows that the Scotch Whisky industry is committed to sustainability and maintaining a pristine environment for generations to come.

"We have made great strides since the Industry Environmental Strategy was launched in 2009 and we're proud of what we've achieved. Results include only sending 2% of waste from Scotch Whisky packaging operations to landfill last year, down from 13% in 2008, and increasing use of non-fossil fuels to generate energy to 17% in 2014 from 3%.

"But when it comes to sustainability more can always be done and we will continue to work in partnership with governments, regulators and our supply chain to further improve our environmental performance."

Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs, Food and the Environment Richard Lochhead said:
"The whisky sector continues to be more resourceful, and has proved that it is contributing significantly in Scotland's shift towards a more circular economy, with the recycled content of its packaging increasing from 29 per cent in 2012 to 33 per cent in 2014.
"A flourishing natural environment is vitally important to all of us for practical, social and cultural purposes. The Scotch Whisky Association recognises this in its environment strategy, and I commend them in their endeavours set out in this report, and their commitment towards sustainability issues."

SEPA's Chief Executive, Terry A'Hearn said: "SEPA welcomes the news from SWA on the progress being made in achieving their strategic environmental targets.

"We strongly endorse the Scotch Whisky sector's Environmental Strategy, as an exemplar, setting its own targets on a sector-wide basis so that companies of different sizes can contribute with initiatives that make sense to them.  The association and its member companies can rightly be proud of the progress made, despite a welcome increase in productivity which is good for Scotland. 

"We can learn a lot from the Whisky sector's approach, and SEPA is keen to promote similar initiatives with other important industrial sectors, so Scotland can demonstrate there is a way for successful businesses to thrive, and also meet challenging environmental targets, going well beyond compliance with regulatory requirements."


Notes to editors

You can download the full Scotch Whisky Environment Strategy Report 2015 below.

SWA media contact: Rosemary Gallagher, head of communications, 0131 222 9230/07432 605385 or email

For information on the Scotch Whisky Association visit


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