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01 November 2021

Sustainability numbers add up for green whisky strategy

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

Key data tracking the Scotch Whisky industry’s ambitious Sustainability Strategy have revealed the sector has cut greenhouse gas emissions by more than 50% since 2008.

The latest data also details that almost 40% of all energy used by producers is obtained from non-fossil fuel sources, compared to 28% in 2018. Collaboration, sharing of knowledge and expertise, and harnessing innovative technologies have been key in achieving these successes.

The latest data to track progress demonstrates the hard work and significant investments Scotch Whisky producers have made towards their target of achieving Net Zero emissions in operations by 2040.

Karen Betts, Chief Executive of the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) said: “These are very encouraging figures to release as COP26 gets underway in Glasgow, and as the Scotch Whisky industry continues on its journey to net zero.  We still clearly have progress to make, but we are determined to reach our 2040 net zero target across the whole industry, not least as the future of one of Scotland’s most historic and successful industries depends on it, as do the people we employ and the communities in which we are based.

“As we face this next, decisive decade Scotch Whisky distillers are redoubling their collaborative efforts not only to reverse the impacts of climate change but to ensure that our industry makes an overall positive impact on the environment around us.”

In September the SWA become Scotland’s first trade association, and the UK’s first food and drink trade association, to be recognised as a Race to Zero partner.

The partnership, which was approved by the UN High Level Climate Action Champions, recognises the Scotch Whisky industry’s commitment to robust net zero criteria in line with globally halving emissions by 2030.

As well as cutting greenhouse gas emissions, the industry has pledged to use water responsibly, ensure by 2025 all new packaging will be reusable or recyclable, and play an active role in the wider conservation and restoration of Scotland’s peatland.

Welcoming the advance made by the industry First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said:

“COP26 is our best, perhaps only, chance to address the climate emergency and Scotland is determined to play our part in reducing emissions. We are committed to achieving net zero by 2045, and since 2008 we have decarbonised faster than any other country in the G20.

“So it is fitting that producers of Scotch whisky, one of our most internationally renowned products, have taken similarly ambitious steps to halve their emissions and adopt renewable energy, and I commend the industry for leading by example and for their membership of Race to Zero.”

By working closely with partners, regulators, innovators and other industries, Scotch Whisky aims to 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.


Top line statistics cover period from 2008 to 2020.

  • Greenhouse gas emissions have reduced by 53% since the 2008 base year.  The 2018 result was a 34% reduction.
  • Our 2020 target for non-fossil fuel use is 20%.  The results indicate that 39% of energy came from non-fossil fuels, up from 3% in 2008.  The 2018 result was 28%.
  • Energy efficiency in distilleries improved by 13% against a 2020 target of 7.6%.  The result in 2018 was a 9% improvement.