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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 three natural ingredients used to make Scotch Whisky – cereals, water and yeast - come from some of the most beautiful parts of Scotland. So we’ve long been determined to play our part in preserving the natural environment.

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 were exceeded. But there is more to do.

In 2021, we set out an ambitious sustainability strategy 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, competitive and successful industry that produces the world’s best whisky.

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 using by-products as sustainable and renewable feed stocks or to create new raw materials for other sectors and others feed excess energy into the national grid.

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

  • Scotch is now transported using sustainable modes. A 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, secondary packaging is kept to a minimum 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. Between 2008 and 2020, we cut greenhouse gas emissions by 53%, but 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 widely recyclable, with work underway to ensure packaging is kept to a minimum by designing an industry wide packaging route map to ensure we can maximise our role in the circular economy.

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 progress so far

Our progress so far

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.

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Sustainable Scotch: Case studies

Sustainable Scotch: Case studies

Explore examples of sustainable Scotch whisky in action from distillery sites throughout Scotland.

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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.

Health & Safety in the Scotch Whisky industry

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

Scotch Whisky at COP26

Find out more about the Scotch Whisky industry's presence at COP26 in Glasgow back in November 2021.

The Scotch Whisky Industry Sustainability Strategy news & commentary

10 July 2023

Whisky industry launches Water Stewardship Framework

The Scotch Whisky industry has launched its Water Stewardship Framework as part of wider sustainability commitments.

01 November 2021

Sustainability numbers add up for green whisky strategy

New data shows the Scotch Whisky industry has more than halved greenhouse gas emissions since 2008.

22 October 2021

Special Scotch Whisky Announced to Mark Collaborative Spirit of COP26

The SWA has announced a limited edition blended Scotch Whisky, produced by the industry to mark the COP26 conference in November.

20 September 2021

Scotch Whisky Association Raises a Toast to Race to Zero Partnership Status

The Scotch Whisky Association has been formally announced as an official Race to Zero partner ahead of COP26 in November.

24 July 2021

MPs and MSPs visit Scotch Whisky sites as part of Countdown to COP Open Day

Marking 100 days to go until COP26, MPs and MSPs around the country visited Scotch Whisky sites to learn more about the industry's sustainability ambitions.

23 July 2021

100 Days Until COP26: Scotch Whisky Sites Showcase Sustainable Scotch

Scotch Whisky sites have opened their doors to showcase the industry's sustainability efforts, 100 days ahead of COP26.

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.

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.