Scotch whisky industry emphasises commitment to environment

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The Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) has emphasised “environmental excellence” as a key consideration in the industry’s investment decisions to ensure sustainability and long-term competitiveness.

At last week’s Worldwide Distilled Spirits Conference 2011 in Glasgow, the SWA also called for government action to underpin distillers’ green commitments.

As demand for Scotch whisky grows across the world, the industry is making an unprecedented level of investment in production capacity.

The continuing buoyancy of the market and optimism about the future has led to over £1 billion of new capital investment over the last five years across the industry – with the industry’s environmental strategy in mind.

The strategy, published in 2009, sets ambitious targets for 2020 and 2050, for example on energy use and recyclable packaging, which can only be achieved by partnership working.

Julie Hesketh-Laird, SWA director of operational and technical affairs, told conference delegates that the Scotch whisky industry is almost unique in its willingness to work together to build on its longstanding “green credentials”.

She said: “The industry’s environmental strategy resulted from exceptional partnership across a sector known for fierce competition among brands. There is a real desire to make a difference.

“The industry has already made impressive strides to meet our targets. For example, 98% of packaging used is recyclable or reusable against a 2020 target of 100%.”

However, she said there are challenges to be overcome – both within the industry and externally – if it is to meet its goals.

Legal, institutional and financial challenges – including waste legislation restrictions, planning issues and lack of incentives for distillers wishing to harness their by-products for energy – must be tackled.

Hesketh-Laird explained: “The Scotch whisky industry has effectively been denied access to the government’s Renewable Heat Incentive scheme due to the low threshold for biogas schemes.

“Governments and regulators must give clearer financial signals, equitable across all sectors. Government policies must be coherent.”

She called on the UK and Scottish Government to incentivise operators in remote areas to investigate the potential of renewable energy.

“We look to the Scottish Government to support our industry’s investments in renewables by championing our case for better tailored incentives from Westminster,” she sad.

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