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The Scotch Whisky Industry Sustainability Strategy

The Scotch Whisky Industry Sustainability Strategy

Protecting nature, preserving resources, preventing climate change 

Scotch Whisky is the spirit of the Scottish landscape. The natural resources used to make it come from some of the most beautiful parts of Scotland. So we’ve long been determined to play our part in preserving the natural resources around us.  

In 2009, we developed our initial Environmental Strategy and since then our members have made a huge investment in moving our industry towards a more sustainable footing. Our distillers have made this initiative a great success, and some of our targets for 2020 have already been reached 

Now, we are launching an ambitious vision that builds on what we have learnt so far, culminating in achieving Net Zero emissions in our own operations by 2040.  

By working closely with our partners, regulators, innovators and other industries, Scotch Whisky can be at the heart of the blueprint to protect Scotland’s unique environment, while also continuing to be a modern, profitable and successful industry that produces the world’s number one internationally-traded spirit 

I welcome the Scotch Whisky Association’s new Sustainability Strategy, which aims to pave the way for the sector to reach net zero by 2040, positioning efforts alongside our national ambition to end Scotland’s contribution to climate change. I am confident that this strategy will support the association’s members to continue to aim high, to plan for the long-term and help become a net-zero nation.

Roseanna Cunningham MSP, Environment and Climate Change Secretary


Now is the time for ambition 

We’re facing a climate emergency. To fight climate change, protect the natural world and preserve resources for future generations, we need to think and act big.  

The UK government wants to achieve Net Zero emissions by 2050; Scotland wants to do so by 2045.

We want to lead the way by achieving Net Zero emissions in our own operations by 2040.  

We will do this while protecting the unique character of our whisky that has made it such a global success. Ensuring that every bottle of Scotch provides a unique taste of Scotland, and a wonderful piece of our heritage.  

This is what our 2040 looks like 

  • Thanks to our investment and focus on sustainability, our industry is no longer reliant on fossil fuels but uses renewable sources of energy.  

  • Many of our distilleries are completely self sufficient in energy. Some are bio-refineries, using by-products to create new raw materials for other sectors 

  • Our distilleries use water efficiently, capturing the energy stored in water heated during the distillation process, for example 

  • Colleagues across the industry put sustainability at the heart of their operations.  

  • Scotch is now transported over rail or in electric vehiclesA rapid electric charging network has revolutionised travel across Scotland, enabling our workers to travel between distilleries and tourists to visit our distilleries in a clean and efficient way, boosting trade and tourism.  

  • The barley and cereals we use are resilient to a changing climate and new farm management techniques help local ecosystems thrive.  

  • Our packaging is fully recyclable and materials sustainably sourced. Glass bottles are fired with renewable energy and are lighter than ever before. Packaging will have a second life. And the casks we use are re-filled many times over.

We’ll be realistic and transparent 

We can’t pretend that achieving our vision will be easy. This is a project that will take many years. Some of the solutions and the technology that we need to succeed don’t even exist yet. But we cannot delay. We started this journey in 2009: now we will accelerate it. 

Our interim milestones give us a set of objectives to aim for. We will issue annual progress reports and update our industry and our partners to show what we have achieved, and what still needs to be done.  

Our four big goals

Our ambition for the future is grounded in the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), a set of 17 targets to address global challenges like clean water and climate action. They foster responsible consumption and production, encouraging businesses to drive change.  

Tackling climate change

We’re going to cut our greenhouse gas emissions. A lot. So by 2040, we’ll achieve Net Zero emissions in our own operations.  

Using water responsibly

We will continue to use our water efficiently – so that all companies are within a responsible water use range by 2025 

Moving to a circular economy

By 2025 all our new packaging will be reusable, recyclable and compostable. 

Caring for the land

We will play an active role in the wider conservation and restoration of Scotland’s peatland to deliver environmental benefits for the common good by 2035 


Our milestones

We have set interim milestones that will help us show progress on our overarching goals:

Our achievements

Our achievements

Learn more about where we are on our Sustainability journey, since launching our first strategy in 2009.

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Climate Change

Climate Change

Find out how the Scotch Whisky industry is tackling climate change together.

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Responsible water use

Responsible water use

Find out how the Scotch Whisky industry will take care of this crucial ingredient, working to make its water use more efficient.

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Circular Economy

Circular Economy

We're working to minimise the impact of the packaging used across the industry, and ensure that resources are used sustainably.

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Caring for the Land

Caring for the Land

The Scotch Whisky industry will help to conserve and restore Scotland's natural landscapes.

Read more

Cereals

Quality cereals are central to the success of Scotch. The industry supports Scottish agriculture that supplies some of the best grain anywhere in the world.

Our journey so far

Find insights on the Scotch Whisky industry's pre-2021 Sustainability Strategies and reports.

Health & Safety

Since 2005, the number of incidents has dropped by 82% and the industry performs consistently better than the ‘food and drinks manufacturing’ rate.

The Scotch Whisky Industry Sustainability Strategy news & commentary

25 January 2021

Scotch Whisky Commits to Reach Net-Zero by 2040 with Launch of New Sustainability Strategy

The Scotch Whisky industry has unveiled its new Sustainability Strategy to tackle climate change and reduce the sector's environmental impact.

05 June 2020

World Environment Day: Industry Continues to Take Steps on the Journey to Net Zero

The Scotch Whisky Association has today released a report detailing a roadmap for the industry to reach net zero, in line with Scottish Government ambitions to achieve net zero by 2045.

28 May 2020

Scotch Whisky Industry Continues to Make Progress Towards a Low-Carbon Economy

A 2020 report tracking progress in achieving the Scotch Whisky industry’s sustainability targets, has been released by the Scotch Whisky Association today.

30 August 2019

SWA is co-signatory on British Glass letter

The Scotch Whisky Association has signed up to the open British Glass letter to underline sustainability concerns around the proposed Deposit Return Scheme.

31 October 2018

New design and manufacturing facility in Stirling opened by SWA CEO

Blue Box Design's new state-of-the-art design and manufacturing facility has been officially opened by Karen Betts, Chief Executive, Scotch Whisky Association.

The Scotch Whisky Industry Sustainability Strategy publications

04 June 2020

SWA Net-Zero report 2020

The SWA has worked with an external consulting firm to create a roadmap for the Scotch Whisky industry to work towards net-zero emissions.

28 May 2020

2020 Environmental Strategy Report

The Scotch Whisky industry has reviewed the latest data covering its sustainability targets, helping to protect the future of Scotch Whisky by preserving the natural environment.

30 August 2019

Scotch Whisky Cereals Technical Note: 4th Edition

The fourth edition of the Scotch Whisky Cereals Technical Note, updated August 2019.