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Working together to support sustainable Scotch

Jean-Etienne Gourgues, Chairman and CEO

Jean-Etienne Gourgues, Chairman and CEO | Chivas Brothers

3 min read Partner content

Net zero is encouraging a traditional industry to collaborate.

In business, when you reap significant rewards from carbon cutting technologies, it’s not always your first instinct to make those learnings available to your competitors. But that’s exactly what we’re doing at Chivas Brothers. Let me explain why. Chivas Brothers is on a journey to make whisky distillation more sustainable. That journey isn’t easy, quick or without cost – but it’s the right thing to do.

Traditional whisky production is energy intensive. Chivas Brothers has set a target of achieving net zero in our distillation process by the end of 2026. While ambitious, we believe that goal is realistic thanks to ground-breaking technology designed to capture and recycle heat generated in the distillation process that would otherwise go to waste.

Heat recovery technologies have reduced total energy consumption by half (48%) at Chivas Brothers’ Glentauchers distillery, near Keith in Speyside, Scotland, reducing the site’s total carbon emissions by 53%. An energy saving equivalent to powering 4,979 average UK homes - more than all the houses in Keith - for an entire year.

As part of Chivas Brothers’ ambitious drive to achieve carbon neutral distillation by the end of 2026, these technologies should reduce our overall energy consumption and carbon emissions in distillation by one third.

The industry must work together

Our ambition isn’t just to reach net zero within our own businesses - but right across the sector.

That’s why we’ve decided to share this transformative work with our competitors. In July, we announced that we would make the design and learnings from the successful integration of enhanced heat recovery technologies ‘open source.’

To reach net zero across the sector we’ve decided to share this transformative work with our competitors

Companies across the sector, including SMEs, can now see if this technology works for them and save time and cost by learning from our experience. We already have 200 registrations with delegates from 5 countries at our open access event in October. By leading change across the  industry, we are maximising the positive potential of carbon savings.

Government has a role creating infrastructure and skills

But we can’t do this alone. Building a greener, cleaner industry requires the right people, and the right power – and a close partnership with both UK and Scottish governments. For the right people, we look to UK education to encourage more young women and men to study STEM subjects and ensure that rural areas get their share of future engineering talent.

And to ensure we can power our green technology, we need government to invest in the grid network as a whole and to prioritise local electricity distribution as well as the trunk network.

The Winser report on strategic transmission is welcome but we also need government and OfGem to facilitate easier dialogue with local distribution network operators to reduce constraints affecting individual businesses and facilitate collective investment solutions.

Green is the colour of global success

Sustainable Scotch is an exciting potential success story for the UK. UK whisky exports grew from £3.5bn in 2010 to over £6BN in 2022. At Chivas Brothers we’ve just announced 17% annual growth in net sales, led by exports, and are planning to invest more than £60m towards our ambition of carbon neutral distillation by end of 2026.

Not every year will be a record, but we can expect this long-term growth to continue as global consumers trade up to premium products. This will safeguard quality jobs in the UK, including in areas where good jobs are hard to come by, and drive investment in green technology.

Working together and with the right partnership with government, sustainable Scotch can be a great – and green – global success.

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