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20 June 2019updated 08 Sep 2021 3:27pm

Setting up Scotch for a sustainable future

By Jean-Christophe Coutures

Recent United Nations reports on the ongoing climate and biodiversity crises have underscored the necessity of taking bold and ambitious action to reverse the course of humanity’s adverse impact on the planet.

As a leading Scotch whisky company exporting products worth over £1bn annually, Chivas Brothers supports the Scottish Government’s efforts to ensure a sustainable future with the most ambitious statutory targets in the world: achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2045, with a 70 per cent reduction in emissions by 2030 and 90 per cent by 2040. The Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) has set similarly ambitious targets, with an aim to move the industry towards net-zero emissions by 2050.

Maintaining momentum

The collective effort of Scotch producers “has made significant progress”, according to the SWA. Greenhouse gas emissions have fallen by 22 per cent since 2008. Net water use has fallen by 29 per cent since the 2012 base level, saving over 1bn gallons of water. These are figures to be very proud of, but we know that there is a lot more work to
be done.

At Chivas Brothers innovation is at the heart of everything we do. Our founders pushed boundaries in the 19th century by pioneering the art of blending whisky, and since then we have worked with equal passion and drive to create a positive legacy for future generations. Today, we are pushing boundaries again, creating an ever more sustainable business.

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 Our Dalmunach distillery is leading the way towards envisioning what all whisky distilleries should look like in the future. Among many state-of-the-art features, we have installed third-generation, energy-efficient wash and spirit stills that employ heat recovery and high-efficiency condenser arrangements to reduce the amount of heat lost in the production process. As a result, the Dalmunach uses 40 per cent less energy than the industry average for a distillery of a similar size.

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 In our Glenlivet and Dalmunach distilleries, we have invested in a water cooling device which returns clean, cooled water upstream, resulting in zero water loss. Along with the cooling system we have also introduced a sustainable urban drainage system at Dalmunach that collects rainfall from roadways within the site to alleviate high water flows and prevent pollution.

Why collaboration is key

We believe lasting change can only occur through collective effort, and that not only means working closer together as a company, but also collaboratively outside the business. In 2014, we started Chivas Venture, a social startup competition that gives away £786,000 in no-strings funding to businesses that blend profit with purpose to have a positive impact on the world. In the four years since the competition started, the Chivas Venture has given away £3.14m in funding. In that time, the Chivas Venture global finalists have impacted over 2m lives in 50 countries around the world – blending profit with purpose to drive major change, including providing over 34m litres of safe drinking water, recycling 1,300 tonnes of waste, and helping over 2,500 farmers’ families out of poverty.

In addition to this, on 6th June, over 1,000 UK-based employees from Chivas Brothers and sister affiliates Pernod Ricard UK and Pernod Ricard Travel Retail, joined to drive circular making projects in England and Scotland. Projects ranged from plastic removal
to up-cycling and more. The united effort across England and Scotland marked the company’s eighth annual “Responsib’All Day” which sees staff in Scotland and round the world dedicate time and resources to support the group’s long-term global sustainability commitments. This activity supports the work Chivas Brothers has been doing with the Marine Conservation Society, for example, to ban plastic straws.

Drinking responsibly

This all forms part of our ambition to bring good times from a good place – of which responsible drinking is a key part. As a long-standing member of the Scottish Alcohol Industry Partnership Chivas Brothers supports two key campaigns relating to the responsible consumption of alcohol: You’re Asking For It and 125ml measures. In partnership with Police Scotland, the You’re Asking For It campaign challenges local authorities to clampdown on adults purchasing alcohol on behalf of minors and raises awareness of the consequences.

The 125ml measure is a voluntary initiative that aims to tackle alcohol related harm and promote responsible drinking in Scotland by encouraging outlets to make the 125ml measure more widely available to customers in bars, clubs, hotels and restaurants across Scotland.

 We also sponsor the Best Bar None Awards. Best Bar None is a unique national accreditation and award scheme aimed at rewarding and recognising licensed premises that undertake positive management practices in support of a great and safe night out.

A brave new world

We are entering an era that calls for bold action, radical change and innovative thinking. Chivas Brothers wants to help define this new era, to show bold and decisive steps towards a better future.

Sustainability roadmap

In April, Chivas Brothers’ parent company, Pernod Ricard, released its 2030 Sustainability and Responsibility roadmap, outlining eight ambitious and concrete 2030 targets. These include focusing and committing on nurturing terroir and its biodiversity; responding to the challenges of climate change to ensure quality ingredients now and for generations to come; a commitment to increasing diversity and empowering people across its supply chain, including equal pay by 2030 and gender balance of its top management teams; and training 10,000 bartenders to host consumers in a more sustainable way, including being anti-waste and plastic-free.

By 2025 Pernod Ricard will ban all promotional items made from single-use plastic and all of its packaging will be recyclable, compostable, reusable or bio-based. In addition to which, by 2030 the Group will pilot five new circular ways of distributing wine and spirits and help increase recycling rates in its top ten largest markets with low recycling levels; and reducing the overall intensity of its carbon footprint by 50 per cent by 2030.

The company also has a commitment to fighting alcohol misuse in each and every market they have an affiliate.

Jean-Christophe Coutures is chairman and CEO at Chivas Brothers. 

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