World’s best-selling whisky to bring sustainability to the bar

Promotional statue of Johnnie Walker Striding Man in outdoor mountain setting

The world’s best-selling brand of Scotch whisky has launched an ambitious sustainability drive that seeks to change not just what we drink, but how and where we drink it, for the better. As well as being designed to address environmental issues such as peat bog conservation and recycled packaging, the global initiative also seeks to create a bar experience that promotes and provides for ‘sustainable socialising’.

Launched by Johnnie Walker, The Next Steps initiative constitutes a wide-ranging action plan that will see the whisky maker ‘keep walking’ to be more sustainable by design, from grain to glass. The initiative forms part of the brand’s ongoing efforts to reduce its environmental footprint, restore natural landscapes and reinvent how its whisky is made, distributed and enjoyed.

Included in the programme is a series of environmental commitments which, by 2030, will ensure:

  • 100% of Johnnie Walker whisky production is net-zero carbon;
  • 100% of Johnnie Walker distilleries harness renewable energy;
  • All packaging will be recyclable, reusable or compostable;
  • Investment projects will restore peatland, plus plant and protect trees in Scotland.

The sustainability imperative demands a response and inaction is simply not an option, argues Julie Bramham, Johnnie Walker Global Brand Director

“When we look at the world around us it’s clear that we all have a role to play in protecting the planet and its resources. We can either see what’s happening and choose to do nothing or we can keep walking, taking every step we can to reduce our impact. We believe there is only one choice to make.

The new programme will be spearheaded by the creation of what is billed as a revolutionary new bar experience, which will showcase the future of ‘sustainable socialising’. Created in partnership with multi-award-winning drinks pioneer Ryan Chetiyawardana (Mr Lyan Studio); CEO of Package Free and zero-waste champion Lauren Singer (Trash is for Tossers); and The World’s Most Rubbish (a global community dedicated to making single-use a thing of the past).

The inventive bar experience, which will première later this year before rolling out globally across multiple markets, represents a new focus for the brand, explains Bramham:

“We want everything we do to be more sustainable across every aspect of our brand and the new drinks experience is where we bring that all together. It’s a space where the set-up, the furniture, operations, processes, and drinks will all be as sustainable as can be.

“But it will also be a brilliant bar experience, something we’ve all been missing in recent times. What if, by going out for the night, you could help make the world just a little bit better? This is one of the most exciting things we’ve ever done.”

Speaking about the collaboration, Ryan Chetiyawardana said:

“Sustainability needs commitment and bold steps – alongside the little, everyday ones – so I’m so proud to be working in partnership with Johnnie Walker as they seek to make proper inroads into addressing this evolving topic with a real and genuine ambition to make a difference.” 

As part of The Next Steps initiative, Johnnie Walker is also partnering with the RSPB Scotland (Royal Society for the Protection of Birds) to restore 88 hectares of heavily degraded peatland. This important work will allow plant life to regenerate, support wildlife and reduce carbon emissions.

The UK has around 13% of the world’s peatlands — the vast majority of which are in Scotland. Overall, despite covering only 3% of the world’s surface, peatlands store 30% of the world’s carbon and are vital to the health and wellbeing of the whole planet. Healthy peatbogs, kept in good condition and retaining water, on average sequester about four times more CO2 than the equivalent area of forest.

Within its sustainability drive as a whole, Johnnie Walker is committing to:

  • Reduce its environmental impact by increasing the recycled content in all its packaging material: including a minimum of 60% recycled glass in its core range bottles by 2025, which the brand predicts will use 13,000 fewer tonnes of carbon every year; 100% of the plastic used in its packaging will also be made from recycled content;
  • Make its glass bottles up to 25% lighter;
  • Ensure all packaging material, including secondary packaging such as gift boxes, will be recyclable, reusable or compostable by 2030 — the brand predicts that all of its actions to reduce its packaging will reduce its carbon footprint by 15%, equivalent to 4,200 return flights from Edinburgh to Sydney;
  • Ensure that by 2030, the production of Johnnie Walker will use 20% less water — this annual saving could be equivalent to 76 Olympic sized swimming pools;
  • Work with customers and suppliers to continue to find and implement more sustainable alternatives for promotional materials and bar ware — with a focus on recyclability or reusability;
  • Continue to support ‘green tourism’, with the goal of having all of its Scotch whisky visitor experiences Green Tourism Gold certified; 
  • Working with and supporting farmers and grain suppliers to help them implement regenerative farm practices and become verified against the Sustainable Agriculture Initiative Platform’s widely-recognised Farm Sustainability Assessment (FSA);
  • Support local initiatives to help preserve our natural landscapes around the world — in Chile, for example, the brand has partnered with Tu Mejor Huella, to protect and restore 5,000 square meters of Torres del Paine National Park, one of Patagonia’s most iconic landscapes.

Johnnie Walker and Diageo

With over 18 million cases sold annually, Johnnie Walker is the world’s number one Scotch Whisky brand (as ranked by the IWSR), enjoyed by people in over 180 countries around the world.

Listed on both the London Stock Exchange (DGE) and the New York Stock Exchange (DEO), Diageo is a global leader in beverage alcohol. In addition to Johnnie Walker, its drink brands include: Crown Royal, J&B, Buchanan’s and Windsor whiskies, Smirnoff and Cîroc vodkas, Captain Morgan, Baileys, Don Julio, Tanqueray and Guinness.

The brand’s environmental pledges of the Johnnie Walker brand come on top of its continued commitment to promote diversity and inclusivity in all its work and its ongoing advocacy for responsible drinking.


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