Scotch Whisky is the national drink, lovingly produced across the nation for centuries, and a product well-known and appreciated by consumers all over the world. The denomination “Scotch Whisky” has been protected in UK law since 1933 and as a geographical indication (GI) in the European Union (EU) since 1989. Scotch Whisky is defined as whisky that is produced in Scotland in compliance with specific traditional methods of production.
The Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) is the organization that protects and promotes Scotch Whisky around the world and ensures that Scotch Whisky producers can trade freely and compete equally with similar products in the global market. Competitiveness, however, is not the SWA’s only priority. It also places great emphasis on ensuring the sustainability of whisky production. As a GI, Scotch Whisky is intrinsically tied to the environment in which it is produced and to the local producers. As such, SWA recognizes that a thriving natural environment is vital for Scotch Whisky. In 2009, the SWA launched the Scotch Whisky Industry Environmental Strategy, which was the first of its kind to cover a whole sector.
The Scotch Whisky industry has already demonstrated its environmental leadership in embracing non-fossil fuel energy, making significant investment in renewable technologies in Scotland. Having set 2020 targets for non-fossil fuel energy use, the industry surpassed this goal four years ahead of time. In 2016 non-fossil fuels accounted for 21 percent of primary energy use (up from 3 percent in 2008), a figure we expect to beat with our latest dataset, available later in 2020. This, coupled with improvements in energy efficiency, fuel switching and grid decarbonization have helped the sector reduce emissions of greenhouse gases by 22 percent since 2008.
From cereals to peat, Scotland’s fields, hills and woodlands all influence the production of Scotch Whisky, and the industry recognizes our duty of care to protect these important natural resources.
As one of the three ingredients that go into Scotch Whisky, water use is a huge part of our industry. Since 2009, we’ve been working with the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) and other stakeholders to analyze our water data and identify opportunities for water optimization at our distilling sites. Analysis from 2016 shows that distilling water efficiency improved by 29 percent since the 2012 base year. In a recent Compliance Assessment Scheme, which SEPA releases each year, the Scotch Whisky industry received a score of 97 percent, demonstrating excellent compliance with environmental law.
Sustainable land use was added in 2016 to start exploring how we could also improve the industry’s Scotland-wide environmental impact. From cereals to peat, Scotland’s fields, hills and woodlands all influence the production of Scotch Whisky, and the industry recognizes our duty of care to protect these important natural resources. With the help of environmental organizations, we are now looking forward to publishing a Peat Action Plan as part of the reviewed sector strategy.
Associations of producers that are directly involved in the day-to-day management of GIs can contribute significantly to driving the shift to more environmentally friendly modes of production.
The SWA is currently reviewing its environmental strategy to explore more far-reaching targets and new areas of commitment and we hope to launch ahead of the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) in Glasgow in November. The Conference will shine a global spotlight on Scotland’s ambitious efforts in challenging our current climate emergency. It is also an important opportunity for industries iconic to Scotland’s cultural landscape to showcase their efforts in helping the Scottish Government reach its net zero carbon targets by 2045.
The production of Scotch Whisky demonstrates that GIs can be used as a vehicle for sustainability. The collective manner in which GIs are managed, which necessarily requires consensus among all actors across in their supply chain, supports the achievement of sustainability goals. Associations of producers that are directly involved in the day-to-day management of GIs can contribute significantly to driving the shift to more environmentally friendly modes of production.