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25 January 2021

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

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.

The Scotch Whisky industry has launched a new Sustainability Strategy which commits the sector to reaching net-zero emissions in its operations by 2040 and to reducing dramatically the environmental impact of Scotland’s national drink in other areas.

The industry’s revised Sustainability Strategy builds on progress made over the last decade which has seen distillers work to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by more than a third. It covers four main themes (tackling climate change, using water responsibly, moving to a circular economy, caring for the land) and commits the industry to work collaboratively with supply chain partners and government towards a collective goal of a sustainable dram from grain to glass.  

Launching the strategy, the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) have also set their sights on this year’s COP26 conference in Glasgow where the industry plans to showcase its environmental work in the fight against climate change. 

Commitments in the Scotch Whisky industry’s Sustainability Strategy include:  

  • A commitment to reach Net Zero emissions in its own operations by 2040, five years ahead of the Scottish Government’s 2045 Net Zero target and 10 years ahead of the UK Government’s target 
  • By 2025, all new product packaging will be reusable, recyclable or compostable
  • A commitment to play an active role in the wider conservation and restoration of Scotland’s peatland to deliver environmental benefits for the common good by 2035
  • Continue to use water efficiently – so that all producers are within a responsible water use range by 2025

The Scotch Whisky industry’s first Environmental Strategy was launched in 2009, the first of its kind to cover an entire sector. Since then, the industry has made significant progress against its original targets, including:

  • a 34% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions
  • 28% of primary energy use is now from non-fossil fuel sources, up from 3% in 2008
  • efficiency of water use in Scotch Whisky production has improved by 22%
  • just 1% of waste is now being sent to landfill, down 75% since 2016

The new Strategy is a reflection that, despite all the work to date, the Scotch Whisky industry must do more if it is to achieve net zero and its other environmental goals.  

Scotch has been produced for 500 years and we want to ensure that it is being produced for generations to come.

Karen Betts, SWA

Karen Betts, Chief Executive of the Scotch Whisky Association, said: “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. 

“Already a leading sector in reducing our environmental impact, we are now committing to achieving net zero in our operations by 2040, five years ahead of the Scottish Government’s target and 10 years ahead of the UK Government’s. We are also overhauling our water use and land use to ensure their sustainability, and where possible deliver an environmental net gain.  And we are committing that all new packaging will be reusable, recyclable or compostable by 2025.

“All of this is close to distillers’ hearts because we know we must protect the natural environment.  We depend on natural resources – water, cereals, yeast – to make Scotch Whisky.  Scotch has been produced for 500 years and we want to ensure that it is being produced for generations to come.

“We are also proud that COP26 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.”  

Terry A’Hearn, CEO of the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) said: “The Scotch Whisky industry is an incredibly forward-thinking sector when it comes to sustainability, and is already among the most environmentally compliant sectors that we regulate. Amid a climate crisis when industries need to act to protect the natural environment, this new Sustainability Strategy demonstrates the commitment of the Scotch Whisky industry to maintain its position as an environmental leader, containing ambitious targets that will help to ensure a green future for Scotch Whisky producers large and small. We look forward to working with them on implementing the Strategy, to make an even bigger contribution to a green economic recovery in Scotland.”

Environment and Climate Change Secretary, Roseanna Cunningham said: “Whisky production is part of our industrial and cultural landscape, and is a key part of our identity as a nation. It is vital for prosperity and employment, especially in rural and island communities.

“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.

“Given the huge burden that the pandemic continues to place on all our activities, it is imperative that we deepen collaboration between government, industry and wider society to deliver our green recovery and 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.”

Secretary of State for Scotland Alister Jack said: “The Scotch Whisky Association is leading the way with the launch of their Sustainability Strategy. This initiative will work towards a sustainable future for Scotch Whisky and tackling climate change – the biggest challenge of our time.

“Later this year in Glasgow we will host COP26, a global gathering to consider the issues around climate change and our collective response to it. 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.

“I am pleased to welcome this on the back of the recent launch of the UK Government’s Green Distilleries Fund which will support 11 distilleries across Scotland and a further six in England to deliver the sort of sustainable practices that this Strategy promotes.”

It’s fantastic that this new strategy is helping one of our most cherished industries also become one of our greenest.

Energy Minister Anne-Marie Trevelyan

Energy Minister Anne-Marie Trevelyan said: “Every industry needs to play its part in cutting carbon emissions and Build Back Greener and I’m delighted to see the Scotch Whisky Association being a driving force in encouraging their globally influential industry to innovate and reach net zero emissions.  

“We are already helping Scotch Whisky take a lead on low-carbon production with £10 million investment and it’s fantastic that this new strategy is taking that even further by helping one of our most cherished industries also become one of our greenest.”

For more information please contact 

The Scotch Whisky Sustainability Strategy is a sector-wide commitment to achieving net zero emissions by 2040. Within the Strategy are four key policy areas, each with specific targets or actions to reduce the sector’s environmental impact.

To find out more and read the Strategy elements in full, visit

In 2020, the SWA published the industry’s latest review, based on 2018 data. The report and its findings can be downloaded here.

The industry’s Net Zero report was also published in 2020, and contains recommendations of ways the Scotch Whisky industry can achieve Net Zero. The release can be found here and the full report can be downloaded here.