Wiebke Petersen

Market Intelligence Officer at Scotland Food & Drink

Having set more ambitious targets for net-zero emissions than elsewhere in the UK, Scotland has taken a bold step in tackling climate change and moving towards a competitive low carbon economy.

While airlines, oil companies and carmakers often bear the brunt of negative publicity calling for them to cut their output of noxious fumes, industries including brewing and distilling also have environmental responsibilities. Adopting a more sustainable approach can lead to even more creative and innovative business models in our burgeoning brewing and distilling sectors.

‘Sustainability’ already sits within Scotland’s Ambition 2030 – a cross-sector strategy to grow food and drink turnover to £30 billion by 2030. One of the most significant industry-wide platforms for growth, it explicitly prioritises the need for businesses to reduce their environmental impact.

If we look abroad to ongoing projects, it’s clear that ambition plays a big part in driving the kind of transformational behaviours we need to encourage.

Everyman’s Right, a Finnish craft brewery, aims to actually remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and cool the planet, one beer at a time. From using waste and by-products during the brewing process to only packaging the beers in light-weight, sustainable and recyclable cans made from 100% recycled aluminium, this is environmentally friendly brewing that could become the model of production the world over, let alone in Scotland.

Although it may seem like an extreme example, that doesn’t mean replicating it is impossible. In Scotland already, our world-renowned drinks industry is, in some quarters, seeing a revolution in how it brews and distils – with the advantages to business becoming ever-clearer.

When it comes to Scotch whisky, for example, minimising the impact of the use of natural resources and maintaining a healthy environment in the future is imperative to the growth of the industry.

The Scotch Whisky Association launched its Environmental Strategy in 2009, with a target of improving energy and distilling efficiency, introducing only recyclable packaging and eliminating waste during the distilling process by 2020. Some of these targets have not only been met, but surpassed thanks to numerous innovative changes being made.

For example, the Bruichladdich whisky distillery has invested £20 million and plans to operate entirely on renewable energy by 2023. Plans have developed and it now aims to have its first on-site malting operation on Islay running purely on renewable energy, and is currently looking into further tidal, water turbine and biomass projects.

Brewers and distillers have also taken positive steps in leading the charge for more sustainable business practices, but even more can be done. Overall, Scotland’s food & drink industry is growing increasingly greener and becoming even more impressive both domestically and internationally.

There are further opportunities to modernise and implement transformational green processes. Through the work of Make Innovation Happen, a partnership between experts from across industry to provide research and knowledge, the tools to create change are readily available for food and drink businesses.

Sharing knowledge and a collaborative approach to innovation is vital for the continued success of the sector. Practical tools and information on creating more sustainable supply chains and business practices are available from Scottish Enterprise and Scotland Food & Drink – both Make Innovation Happen partner organisations.

Climate change and limited natural resources are challenges we will face in near future, and it’s likely that global warming will have an impact on traditional brewing and distilling practices in Scotland. To overcome these challenges, we need to change the way we think about sustainability, and innovation across the entire supply chain is needed to achieve Scotland’s goal of becoming a true eco-economy.

To find out more, visit the Make Innovation Happen website: http://bit.ly/MakeInnovationHappen