Skip to the content

28 May 2020

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

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.

The Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) has released its latest report tracking progress in achieving the Scotch Whisky industry’s sustainability targets, as set out in its ambitious Environmental Strategy.

The Scotch Whisky Industry Environmental Strategy, created in 2009 and the first of its kind to cover an entire sector, listed a range of targets across the industry and its supply chain.

The 2020 report, using data from 2018, is the latest indication of the Scotch Whisky industry’s advancements in sustainability, and cover key areas that include responsible water use, reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, and improvements to consumer packaging.

Among the successes revealed by the latest data was a 34% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions at Scotch Whisky production sites. The Scotch Whisky industry now sources over a quarter of its primary energy from non-fossil fuel sources, up from 21% in 2016. Water efficiency in the Scotch Whisky industry has improved by 22% since the 2012 base year, more than double the 10% improvement target.

The Scotch Whisky industry has made further progress in reducing waste to landfill. The latest data shows only 1% of waste is now being sent to landfill, down from 4% in 2016.

Reducing overall packaging weight has proven more challenging. Overall weight has increased by 2.6% since 2012, due in large part to the premiumisation of many Scotch Whisky products, particularly glass bottles.

Welcoming the report, Karen Betts, Chief Executive of the SWA, said: “This report shows how seriously we take the sustainability of the Scotch Whisky industry. Scotch Whisky is made from natural ingredients in some of Scotland’s most beautiful landscapes and we know we have a huge responsibility to protect the environment. 

“It’s great to see the progress we are making, including significant reductions in fossil fuel use and in recycling and reusing waste. This work is going on hand-in-hand with our supply chain too, and together we are leading the way to a sustainable future for our sector.

“What is critical now, including as we look to re-building our industry and Scotland’s economy in the wake of COVID-19, is that we can work closely with government to ensure that the right policy framework and right incentives are in place to enable us and other key sectors to continue to take bold steps to tackle climate change.”

This year, the SWA is further reviewing the strategy to ensure it can drive progress towards net-zero targets and a low-carbon economy, with publication expected later in 2020. Among the revised targets will be a commitment to sustainable land use, including the implementation of a Peat Action Plan and commitments to further reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Terry Ahearn, CEO of the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA), said: “This progress report powerfully shows that the SWA and its members are businesses that understand that environmental excellence is essential to commercial success.  SEPA applauds the sector for its achievements and looks forward to continuing to work with the sector on its ongoing efforts to innovate for environmental progress.”

Ross Johnston, Deputy Director of Sustainable Development for Scottish Natural Heritage said: “We welcome SWA’s commitment to their environmental strategy, and we look forward to working with them on sustainable land use and their Peat Action plan.”

Notes to editors

The full 2020 Scotch Whisky Environmental Strategy report can be accessed here

2020 targets (and 2009-2018 progress)

  • Source 20% of primary energy from non-fossil fuels: 28% of primary energy use is now from non-fossil fuel sources. This has contributed to a 34% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Improve energy efficiency by 7.6%: Energy efficiency has improved by 9.2% since 2008. The industry has achieved its target 2 years early.
  • Improve distilling water efficiency by 10%: Water efficiency has improved by 22% since the 2012 base year.
  • Reduce average unit weight of packaging materials by 10%: Packaging weight has increased by 2.6% since 2012. The main driver is continued consumer demand for premium products.
  • No general waste from Scotch Whisky operations will go to landfill: Landfill waste is now down to just 1% over the last decade.
  • All packaging will be reusable or recyclable: Reusable or recyclable packaging now sits at 94%.
  • 40% of product packaging to be from recycled materials: The recycled content of our product packaging is 37%. Glass has the biggest impact on this target.

For more information, please contact the SWA press office on