Irish Whiskey Association publishes roadmap to make Irish distilleries the most sustainable in the world

May 30, 2022

All-island roadmap supported by enterprise agencies both North & South

The Irish whiskey industry will lead the way in making Ireland the home of the world’s most sustainable distilleries and whiskey brands. That’s according to the Irish Whiskey Association, which today (30.05.22) launched ‘Irish Whiskey Sustainable Together’, a new roadmap for how the industry will reduce its environmental and carbon impact, strengthen its role in the regenerative and circular economy, and deliver a positive impact for communities.

Launching the roadmap at Tullamore Distillery in Co. Offaly, Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine Senator Pippa Hackett, said: “Food Vision 2030 underlines the importance and interconnectedness of sustainability in all its dimensions - economic, social and environmental. The Origin Green programme reflects the increasing focus from trade customers of Irish food and drink on delivering proof of sustainability at every stage of the food supply chain. This Roadmap is therefore very timely. I congratulate the Irish Whiskey Association on the development of this Sustainability Roadmap for their members, and look forward to seeing it progress.”

Some of the measures outlined in the roadmap include:

  • Reducing water usage – The roadmap supports the principle of ‘less-water-in, less-effluent-out’ and sets a target of reducing the volumes of water used per litre of whiskey distilled. The Association and Irish Water have agreed plans to deliver bespoke, accredited Water Stewardship training days for distilleries
  • Supporting Irish farming – The Irish whiskey industry purchases over 100,000 tonnes of Irish barley and malt annually and the roadmap commits to buying even more from Irish farmers.
  • Supporting the circular economy: Every year, over 350,000 tonnes of co-products from Irish whiskey production (spent grain/pot ale) are reused to become high-quality animal feed and the roadmap commits to strengthening our place in the circular economy.
  • Energy efficiency – The roadmap proposes signature project to support innovation on energy efficiency within the industry. This will involve members sharing best practice on energy efficiency; and it will include state agencies and key stakeholders to support implementation.
  • Tree planting - The Association has nominated Trees on the Land as their all-island tree-planting partner, allowing members to fund tree-planting – which will be comprised of at least 50 per cent oak trees – through a consistent expert programme.
  • All-Ireland Pollinator Plan – The Association has signed up to support the All-Ireland Pollinator Plan (AIPP) and will be working with the AIPP to support members to implement actions on distillery and maturation sites.

Commenting today, the Director of the Irish Whiskey Association, William Lavelle, said: “The roadmap is about an industry working together and sharing knowledge with a shared ambition to make Ireland the home of the world’s most sustainable distilleries. We are committed to minimising the life-cycle environmental impact of our production practices and our supply chains while maximising our support for Irish farming and local suppliers.

“This roadmap will actively support the delivery of national climate targets. Some Irish whiskey distilleries will reach net-zero very quickly and through the knowledge transfer projects set-out in the roadmap we will support all distilleries to make the transition, particularly the two-thirds of our members who are SMEs.

“This is not just an environmental strategy. The roadmap also addresses the importance of economic and social sustainability. People and place have been at the heart of Irish whiskey’s renaissance and our industry is proud of how we support communities and local economies across the island of Ireland.”

All-island support

As Irish whiskey is of one of Ireland’s leading all-island industries, the new roadmap is being supported by state agencies on both parts of our shared island.

Alexa Toomey, Manager for Dairy, Drinks & Food FDI with Enterprise Ireland said: “Enterprise Ireland welcomes the launch of the IWA Sustainability Roadmap and the sectors commitment to reducing carbon emissions. Our strategy. Leading in a Changing World, highlights climate action as a transformational imperative for enterprise development to drive competitiveness and achieve climate action targets. Enterprise Ireland will continue to work in partnership with our clients to embed climate action as a strategic business priority, assisting enterprise activities to reduce emissions.”

Jeremy Fitch, Executive Director of Business Growth with Invest Northern Ireland, said: “Invest NI recognises the increasing significance of the green economy as a key driver of growth and prosperity, and an ambition across businesses to drive a greener, more sustainable economy. We’re delighted to support the launch of the Irish Whiskey Association’s roadmap today. We look forward to working together to help it deliver the roadmap’s green economic objectives, supporting innovation, efficiencies and environmental impact across the industry.”

Economic and Social Sustainability

The roadmap outlines how the growth of the Irish whiskey industry in recent years has supported both urban regeneration and rural communities. Key points include:

  • The Irish whiskey industry has supported urban renewal and rural regeneration by creating high-quality jobs in communities across Ireland.
  • Vacant buildings in 17 towns and villages across Ireland have been re-purposed for the development of distilleries.
  • A newly completed assessment by Fáilte Ireland for the Irish Whiskey Association found that visitors to distilleries in 2019 spent €63 million in local communities.
  • While the Irish whiskey industry has historically been male-dominated, the roadmap includes a new assessment carried out by the Irish Whiskey Association showing that the gender split across the industry is now 63% male, 37% female.
IWA Sustainability Roadmap 2022 pdf | 23635.8 kb