spiritsNEWS December 2022

Editorial: Europe’s spirits sector presents new holistic vision on sustainability

Three weeks ago, we launched a new, and truly holistic vision on sustainability for our sector. Holistic in the sense that we are looking at all three aspects of sustainability: environmental, economic and social. And holistic in the way that we are looking not only at our core area – production & distillation of spirit drinks – but at the entire value chain, or in Brussels jargon, the entire farm-to-fork process or – as we prefer to say in the spirits sector – the entire farm to glass process.

#Farm2Glass was the title of our first sustainability brochure launched in May 2020. We – and the world – has moved on since then in several important ways. In our sector, a lot of new sustainability initiatives have sprung up so we felt now is a good time to collect and showcase all the great action and progress that is being made.

On a related note, EU legislation has moved on since then, and we now have important legislative proposals on the table that will regulate sustainability-related aspects in the agri-food sector including spirits. So we felt it would be a good and timely idea to spell out our views and positions about, for instance, the proposal on Geographical Indications (GIs) or the proposal for an EU Packaging and Packaging Waste Regulation (see article below on the PPWR). The brochure also explains the links between the sector’s work and those EU policy initiatives on sustainability. Since the start, spiritsEUROPE has actively supported the development of European sustainability initiatives such as the European Commission’s Code of Conduct for Responsible Business and Marketing or the industry-driven Close the Glass Loop Action Platform – which has committed to increase glass collection rates for recycling across Europe to 90% by 2030.

Sustainability is THE element of continuity in our sector – it has always been at the heart of what we do. Today, spirits drinks are amongst the most sustainable foodstuffs produced and consumed in the EU. Now you will say, where is the data to back up such a claim? You will of course find some relevant facts & figures in the brochure, but the answer might also come to you by simply considering some of the fundamentals of who we are and how we produce:

Firstly, our products are a direct reflection of our natural surroundings – the terroir – in which they are produced. 100% of raw materials for spirits are sourced directly from nature such as grains, fruits, vegetables, herbs or botanicals. So, by nature, we are heavily invested in the mindful and sustainable management of the environment that we rely upon to produce our drinks.

Secondly, the production of spirits requires a long-term mindset. For certain aged spirits, 60 or more years may pass from the start of production until the final bottling. Or as the saying goes: today’s rain is tomorrow’s whisky.

And if you take both of these elements together – an immediate reliance on a functioning natural ecosystem & a long-term history and mindset to produce the same natural product in the same place. You can, quite simply, not do that soundly without being inherently and highly sustainable.

To conclude, we strongly believe that a public-private partnership approach and a combination of both legislative and self-regulatory measures will provide the best way forward towards a more competitive and sustainable food system across Europe. EU policy has an important role to play by creating a clear and ambitious, yet also adapted and flexible framework that unleashes market forces to compete for the best sustainability solutions while maintaining a level playing-field among producers and safeguarding the integrity of the EU’s Single Market.


Ulrich Adam, Director General*

*In his capacity as permanent representative of SPRL ADLOR Consulting

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