By Kristy Dorsey

Two Scottish distilleries are set to achieve zero carbon emissions by the end of this year as part of owner Diageo’s new 10-year sustainability action plan.

The Oban and Royal Lochnagar distilleries will be the first to move to 100 per cent renewable energy as Diageo aims to reach this target across its entire portfolio of 28 single malt production facilities by 2030. With heat being the biggest consumer of energy in the distilling process, the most significant advance at Oban and Royal Lochnagar has been the conversion of boilers to use renewable liquid biofuels made from vegetable oil residue.

Royal Lochnagar and Oban are Diageo’s smallest and second-smallest distilleries in Scotland respectively, with each producing less than one million litres of alcohol per year. The group’s whisky portfolio covers production capacities ranging from two to 12 million litres of alcohol annually.

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As part of its Society 2030 action plan, the drinks giant has set itself the task of achieving net-zero carbon emissions across all its direct operations, which cover more than 70 countries around the world. At the moment, just less than 28% of the group’s energy consumption is from renewables.

The other main planks of its sustainability agenda include increased representation of women and minorities among its senior ranks, along with a campaign to promote positive drinking.

Ewan Andrew, chief sustainability officer at Diageo, said it was “vital” to act now “if we want to maintain the wonderful world we all live in”.

“I’m proud that we have already halved our own carbon footprint and that we are going to push ourselves further by becoming carbon neutral by 2030,” he said. “It feels fitting that we are leading the way with Oban and Royal Lochnagar distilleries, which will both be carbon neutral by the end of the year.”

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By the end of the decade, the group says it will ensure that every drink its produces will take 30% less water to make than it does today. This will involve a particular focus on its brewing operations, most of which are in water stressed areas such as Africa.

With regards to diversity and inclusion, Diageo said it will increase the proportion of leaders from ethnically diverse backgrounds to 45% of its 600 directors around the globe by 2030. The company did not provide any current figures on this measure, through it is due to report on this at the end of the current financial year in July 2021.

As for gender, Diageo said it will achieve 50% female representation among its most senior ranks within the next 10 years. At the moment, 39% of leadership positions are held by women.

Commenting on this, chief executive Ivan Menezes said that by setting such goals he believes the group can “truly break down barriers and help shape a more diverse and successful long-term business and society”.

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To promote its positive drinking agenda, Diageo said it will use its brands to reach more than one billion people with messages of moderation. It will also aim to shift attitudes on drink driving in areas where this remains prevalent, and has pledged to educate more than 10 million people on the dangers of underage drinking through its SMASHED awareness programme, which is operating in every continent.

“As a global business, we are committed to playing our part to protect the future of our planet and to leading the way for others to follow,” Mr Menezes added. “I am immensely proud of Diageo’s sustainability and responsibility achievements to date, and this new ambitious action plan will challenge us even further to deliver more over the critical decade to 2030.”

The company has also launched a “Sustainable Solutions” investment platform that will provide non-equity funding to start-up and technology companies that can help it embed sustainability into its supply chain and brands. Designed to support entrepreneurs and small firms in the development and commercialisation of their innovations, applications are open from now through December 16.