A Dram A Day To Keep Climate Change At Bay



Scottish distillers, makers of iconic Scotch whiskies, have agreed to ‘green’ their production processes.Earlier this month, companies that make up the Scotch Whisky Association unveiled plans to cut their use of fossil fuels by 80 per cent by 2050 – the equivalent of taking 235,000 cars off Scotland’s roads.

“The challenge is there from climate change and we need to respond to that,” said David Rae, managing director of the North British Distillery Company in Edinburgh, who also serves as chairman of the Association’s operations committee. “Our industry has been there for 500 years, and we want it to be around for another 500 years.”

For example, the North British Distillery Company already has established an agreement with a local city council building a new high school to provide heat for the school.

The company has a 10-year agreement to provide hot water from its post-distillation process to the school, supplying 1.5 megawatts of thermal energy, and keeping students and staff warm during the school year. The agreement will help the school displace about 1,400 tons of CO2 emission per year.

In addition, the North British Distillery also is evaluating the potential introduction of an anaerobic digestive process, which will convert its post distillation liquid stream into a renewable energy source. This will in turn be used to generate the distillery’s electricity energy requirements. It is estimated that this process will displace 50,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions per year, Rae said.

However, whisky connoisseurs can rest easy – the taste and even labelling of their favourite scotch whiskies will not change.

Rae said that whisky producers have agreed that at a brand level, the ‘greening’ of whisky making in Scotland will not become a competitive issue.

In the long-run, the decision to adopt better environmental standards stems from the Scotch whisky’s dependence on Scotland’s clean environment, including access to clean water and good cereals.

“We are an industry that benefits directly from the environment in which we operate,” Rae said.

WWF Scotland’s Director, Dr Richard Dixon, said he hoped the whisky industry eventually would raise the environmental targets in key areas, although he praised the move.

“Scotch whisky is world renowned and we welcome plans to reduce the environmental footprint of each and every dram,” Dixon said. “We particularly welcome the fact that they have set themselves targets to reduce their impact. Since the whisky industry relies on Scotland’s clean environment for its main ingredients it is important the industry takes steps to reduce its potential impacts.”

The Association’s plan translates to a fossil fuel saving annually by 2050 of more than 750,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide. Other industry-wide reduction targets include: a significant reduction in the average weight of packaging used; the elimination of sending waste from packaging operations to landfill sites; a commitment to source future whisky casks only from sustainable oak forests; and to maintain the highest standards of water use and discharge management