Sustainability central to competitiveness at Origin Green founding member Irish Distillers

Irish Distillers was invited to become one of the ten founding participants of Bord Bia’s Origin Green programme due to its substantial achievements in the area of sustainability and also because of its belief that to achieve excellence in business it is essential to have a thoughtful and integrated approach to sustainability.

CEO and chairman of Irish Distillers Anna Malmhake said at the Origin Green launch: “We fully recognise our responsibility to society and the environment. This recognition is central to our drive for competitiveness – our ability to compete depends on it. Responsible production and consumption are central drivers of our business. Minimising our environmental impact and maximising our potential contribution to society are central to our strategic planning for business growth.”

A subsidiary of Pernod Ricard, Irish Distillers was formed in 1966 following the merger of three Irish whiskey distillers – John Jameson & Sons and Powers & Sons in Dublin and the new Midleton, Co Cork distillery, the origins of which date back to 1825.

The company has embarked on a state-of-the-art €100m expansion project at the new distillery, which will mean a doubling of production capacity. About 20pc of this investment is directly related to improving sustainability.

“Early in the design phase Irish Distillers put sustainability as a key prerequisite. We worked with GEA in Germany to combine its energy saving technology on column stills with our whiskey distilling expertise, which resulted in up to 50pc energy savings on the distillation columns. Overall we hope to achieve greater than 35pc energy savings and 30pc water reduction in our new processes,” said Tommy Keane, general manager, Midleton Distilleries.

Pernod Ricard sustainability objectives
Pernod Ricard has five overall sustainability objectives, which are consistent with its corporate social responsibility platform and support its overall vision “to become the undisputed industry leader in Ireland and build Jameson into a dynamic, growing and iconic global spirit brand producing superior returns”.

These objectives focus on its employees, the community it operates in, its consumers, environmental protection/sustainable agriculture and financial performance – covering all aspects of the triple bottom line (people, planet, profit).

In its sustainability plan, the company has addressed energy, waste, water and biodiversity as key target areas over a three-year period, while building on pre-existing goals it had set itself prior to joining Origin Green.

Although Irish Distillers has already made significant advances in relation to energy efficiency, it has set the a target of reducing energy consumption per unit of production by 19pc between 2012 and 2015 at the Midleton distillery.

Measures to achieve this include reusing energy on both pot distillation and grain distillation recovery columns, and the installation of thermal vapour recompression technology.

Regarding waste, Irish Distillers has a focused environmental management programme in its production process and operates to the ISO14001 environmental management standard.

Very high recycling rates have been achieved over the past ten years. Management wants to further build on this and has set a target for reducing solid waste further over the next three years.

In relation to water, the company aims to reduce consumption per unit of production at the Midleton distillery by 3pc. Currently ‘once through’ groundwater is used for cooling the large fermentation vessels. The cooling water (post fermentation) will be used as process water, which will considerably reduce consumption.

To address the area of biodiversity, Irish Distillers is incorporating particular features in the new whiskey maturation complex in Dungourney, Co Cork, which is currently under development.

These include the planting of indigenous shrubs, which will encourage small birds to nest, and the incorporation of traditional meadow grass and flower species in the large green areas.