As the climate change crisis becomes ever more pressing, Bruichladdich is leading the way in responsible whisky production. The Scottish distillery is committed to sustainable operations and works with environmental organisations to ensure its impact on the planet is minimised.
The whisky industry does have a large environmental footprint, from the carbon produced by burning peat to make the malt, to the transport costs of getting bottles from the distillery to the customer, and the water waste associated with the production process.
With modern customers increasingly interested in the sustainability of the products they buy, the industry as a whole is under increasing pressure to reduce its environmental impacts. In response, Bruichladdich is leading the charge, aiming to be a model of sustainable whisky production. In fact, the business has not just been awarded B Corp certification, it is also the first single malt distillery in Europe to achieve B Corp status for its commitment to the highest levels of social and environmental performance, public transparency and accountability.
The hard path to a greener future
One of the reasons that the sustainability measures taken by Bruichladdich are so impressive is that, unlike a lot of “born green” companies, which is to say those that are established with sustainability at their very core, Bruichladdich is a mature distillery that must overcome the established practices and operations of an industry with deep roots.
Built during the Victorian era, the company has since transitioned from a coal-fired operation to an entirely carbon-neutral distillery. To do this, Bruichladdich implemented several measures that directly reduce emissions and energy consumption.
While their attempt to transition to an anaerobic digestion system, which is a way of turning organic material into renewable energy, had to be scrapped due to a lack of local waste-streams and infrastructure, the company has remained defiant in the face of adversity and started exploring the possibility of hydrogen energy generation and the use of renewable energy sources to reduce their carbon footprint.
Just as importantly, the company has collaborated with the Agronomy Institute of the University of the Highlands and Islands to further the use of Bere barley. A 5000-year-old grain crop that is native to Scotland, Bere barley is highly resilient to extreme weather conditions and can be used in whisky production as a viable alternative to wheat or other grains.
Because Bere barley is a native crop, it is well suited to the poor soil and short growing seasons associated with Scotland. This means it requires significantly less infrastructure to grow than other crops, and requires significantly less water to sustain it. By using Bere barley as part of their whisky production process, Bruichladdich can take advantage of this resource in a sustainable way.
To reduce its packaging and waste, the distillery opened its own bottling plant in 2003, thereby significantly reducing the transportation carbon costs associated with bought in supplies. It is now the islands largest employer and is certified as a great place to work for both men and women.
Bruichladdich is also passionate about supporting local businesses and communities in Islay, which is why it has extended its sustainability efforts to providing regionally sourced ingredients for its whisky production. The distillery works closely with farmers on Islay to source barley, and even grows its own barley in Islay fields.
All of these measures are part of the distiller’s commitment to entirely decarbonising their distillation process by 2025. In addition to achieving this goal, Bruichladdich also hopes to reduce its water consumption and plastic packaging usage, as well as increase the use of renewable energy sources.
Bruichladdich is a leader in sustainability, taking on innovative measures that help minimise its impact on the environment while still producing great whisky. By using local ingredients and renewable energy sources, the distillery is actively working to reduce its carbon footprint while keeping the whisky-making process as natural as possible.
And its efforts haven’t gone unnoticed.
Bruichladdich’s efforts were recognized at the VIBES Scottish Environment Business Awards, an annual event that recognizes Scottish businesses making a positive contribution to the environment.
Supported by environmentally friendly institutions such as Zero Waste Scotland, the Energy Saving Trust, and Nature Scot, as well as the Scottish Government, the awards honour companies that find sustainable ways to operate.
In particular, Bruichladdich is the first whisky and gin distillery in Europe to attain B Corp status. B Corp status is granted to those who demonstrate high standards of verified performance, accountability, and transparency in their pursuit of a positive social and environmental impact.
In order to be eligible for the award, companies must meet a number of criteria, such as demonstrating how they promote sustainable practices throughout their entire operation.
This includes having energy-efficient processes in place, reducing waste and pollution, investing in renewable energy sources, supporting local communities and suppliers, implementing ethical employment practices, and working with partners and suppliers who share the same values.
Additionally, companies must demonstrate their commitment to creating a positive impact in the community and environment by actively engaging in charitable activities, volunteering, fundraising, and other initiatives that benefit society. They should also show evidence of how they are promoting diversity and inclusion within their organization.
Finally, it is important for companies to ensure their products and services are providing value to customers and helping them achieve their goals.
Companies should be able to measure the impact they are making in terms of customer satisfaction, sales growth, cost savings, and other relevant metrics. This information can then be used to inform future decisions and strategies so that organizations can continue to improve their impact on society.
To simplify it, B Corp status is similar to the “Fair Trade” certification. It is a certification that recognizes companies that meet certain standards of social and environmental performance, accountability, and transparency.
As the first whisky and gin distillery to achieve B Corp status, Bruichladdich represents a potential green future for the industry.