The word “whisky” is derived from a Gaelic phrase meaning “water of life.” Given this fact, it should come as no surprise that John Dewar & Sons Ltd., maker of the internationally renowned DEWAR’S Scotch Blended whisky, has been dedicated to sustainability since its establishment in 1846. Like the rest of the industry, the company relies heavily on natural resources throughout the whisky production process, from growing barley to powering its distilleries. Because of this, John Dewar & Sons has collaborated with industry partners, suppliers, and the Bacardi group of companies to minimize its environmental impact and give back as much as it consumes from Scotland’s wealth of natural resources.
Through its Partnership with the Scotch Whisky Association
The Scotch whisky industry forms an important part of the Scottish economy, supporting some 40,000 jobs and exporting an average of 38 bottles each second. As a leader in this sector, John Dewar & Sons is a member of the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) and a contributor to its award-winning environmental initiative. The recipient of accolades including the Scottish Waste and Resources Award and the Sustainable Communities Division (SCDI) Award for Excellence in Environmental Sustainability, the collective strategy is the first industry-wide environmental effort of its kind in Scotland.
The SWA sharpened its focus on sustainability by first conducting a life cycle assessment of the Scotch whisky industry. After identifying opportunities to increase sustainability in the areas of manufacturing, distribution, and the supply chain, the organization launched its Environmental Strategy in 2009. In the process, the SWA called on its member companies to pursue specific, measurable goals in the realm of sustainability, encouraging them to go beyond mere compliance and facilitate sustainable interventions at all points in the supply chain.
The SWA Environmental Strategy aims to reduce the industry’s greenhouse gas emissions, increase its energy efficiency, and ensure responsible water management. It outlines plans for the industry to obtain all oak casks from sustainably managed woodlands, and to derive 80 percent of its energy from renewable sources by 2050. By 2020, the SWA hopes to reduce the weight of Scotch whisky packaging material by 10 percent, make all packaging recyclable or reusable, and eliminate all landfill waste.
Many of John Dewar & Sons’ sustainable innovations have gone into effect at the Poniel Blend Centre & Maturation Warehouse in central Scotland. The state-of-the-art facility benefited from a $500 million investment by Bacardi, which allowed John Dewar & Sons to implement various improvements for operational efficiency and environmental sustainability.
The Poniel facilities span 18 warehouses on 100 acres, with each warehouse holding as many as 72,000 whisky storage casks. In addition to using an energy-efficient conveyer system to transport these casks throughout the production process, the company has also used tankers to replace wooden casks when transporting its spirits between production sites. These changes have allowed the whisky producer to cut its annual carbon dioxide emissions by 1,000 metric tons—the equivalent of taking 400 cars off the road.
John Dewar & Sons has also transformed the landscape of the expansive Poniel grounds to support the natural environment. Working in partnership with Scottish Natural Heritage, the company recently planted 130,000 trees and plants across the 100-acre facility. Additionally, it has installed a SUDS—a sustainable urban drainage system—in order to direct rainwater to a retention pond and develop natural wetlands to enhance the surrounding wildlife habitats.
With Innovations at the Aberfeldy Distillery
Since 2006, John Dewar & Sons has reduced greenhouse gas emissions across all of its distilleries by 34 percent. A great deal of this progress is evident at its facilities in Aberfeldy, where a more sustainable boiler system has allowed the distillery to prevent up to 6,000 tons of carbon dioxide emissions each year, reducing its carbon footprint by a striking 90 percent. Rather than consuming fuel oil, the new biomass boilers burn wood pellets to produce the steam that powers the distilling process. Even the pellets themselves are sustainable, hailing from the sustainably managed forests of UK biomass manufacturer Balcas.
The Aberfeldy distillery was able to introduce the sustainable biomass boilers with the help of an energy efficiency investment from UK Green Investment Bank. The company’s efforts have also earned accreditation from the Carbon Trust Standard.
By Powering Local Communities
John Dewar & Sons also utilizes sustainable biomass boilers at its distillery located in the Speyside region of the Scottish Highlands. Known as the Rothes CoRDe and partially owned by The Combination of Rothes Distillers, the facility generates enough electricity to power not only 50 nearby whisky distilleries, but also 8,000 homes. The Rothes CoRDe operates 24 hours a day, continuously burning a mixture of wood chips and draff, a grain byproduct of distillation, to produce 8.3 megawatts of electricity each hour. After consuming a portion of this energy to power its own operations, the sustainable facility provides enough energy for the electricity needs of 20,000 residents in surrounding communities. In addition to this sustainable strategy, the Rothes CoRDe also produces organic livestock feed using pot ale, the residue left behind in copper whisky stills.
As Part of Bacardi’s Good Spirited: Building a Sustainable Future
As a member of the Bacardi family, John Dewar & Sons pursues the goals outlined in the parent firm’s global sustainability program, which focuses on responsible sourcing, efficient packaging, and operational sustainability. Since beginning the initiative in 2006, Bacardi has strived to secure sustainable sources for all raw materials, reduce packaging weight by 15 percent, reduce both water use and greenhouse gas emissions by at least 50 percent, and eliminate all landfill waste.
John Dewar & Sons has made significant headway in several of these focus areas. Due in part to the energy efficiency interventions at its facilities in Aberfeldy and Rothes, the company has achieved a 34 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. Additionally, it has reduced its water usage by 46 percent and eliminated 30 percent of its landfill waste.