Diageo distilleries first to achieve water stewardship certification globally

25 Oct 2021

Today we’re proud to announce that Scotland-based Alliance for Water Stewardship (AWS), which sets a global benchmark for water sustainability, has awarded 11 of our distilleries the International Water Stewardship Standard (AWS Standard) certification, a prestigious certification for how they manage precious water resources, ahead of the COP26 UN climate change conference in Glasgow.

The new Dufftown Weir will boost sustainability of

The River Spey is one of Scotland’s longest rivers and is famous for its fishing and whisky, with 50 per cent of all Scotch whisky distilled on the Spey. The entire river is protected under European legislation as a Special Area of Conservation (SAC) in recognition of its importance for the protection of biodiversity such as wildlife species, including the Atlantic salmon. 

The pioneering water stewardship work of the Diageo Spey Catchment Group*, which includes such world-famous distilleries as Cardhu, Mortlach and Cragganmore, has seen it awarded the certification.

The iconic River Spey in Speyside.

The AWS Standard is the international standard for responsible water use and encompasses social, cultural and environmental criteria, including engagement with local communities. The Standard recognises continual improvement and commitment to ongoing action in response to the ever-changing nature of water and climate-related threats.

To gain the certification, a team from across our business engaged with local communities and stakeholders to initiate projects across the River Spey, designed to care for water use and improve water efficiency, as well protect against climate-related impacts by improving water balance sustainability. This included engagement with the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA), Spey Catchment Initiative, Spey Fishery Board, Scottish Canoe Association, Spirit of the Spey, and others during the certification process.

Work with RSPB to restore peatland at Abernethy Nature Reserve, in the Cairngorm National Park, is just one recent example of our efforts, where water retention within the catchment was identified as a key issue for improvement for both biodiversity and business continuity. In Summer 2018, some Speyside distilleries were forced to halt whisky production, after a heatwave caused them to run out of water.

“Water is an absolutely crucial ingredient of our whisky, but it is also a precious shared resource that is coming under increasing pressure in many parts of the world, including Scotland. We know how important it is that we protect the iconic River Spey that makes our whisky special. The certification of our Speyside distilleries recognises the efforts we have led in the catchment, to ensure high quality and sustainable water stewardship, so that our natural landscape is preserved for everyone.”

Ewan Andrew

Chief Sustainability Officer, Diageo

“The Diageo Spey Catchment Group is the first group of distilleries globally to be certified to the AWS Standard, meaning they have shown a high level of water stewardship performance. Water is the primary medium through which we will feel the effects of climate change. Diageo’s leadership will not only help safeguard one of Scotland’s most important exports, but it also serves as a model to other companies on the power of collective action as water availability becomes less predictable in many places.”

Adrian Sym

Chief Executive Officer of Alliance for Water Stewardship (AWS)

“Collective action, such as that we have seen from Diageo working with its partners in the Spey Catchment Initiative, is going to become even more vital in the years ahead. Only by working together do we stand a chance of making the River Spey more resilient to the ravages of climate change and averting the climate emergency which confronts us all.”

Roger Knight

Spey Fishery Board Director

*The Diageo Spey Catchment Group includes the following sites: Auchroisk Distillery, Benrinnes Distillery, Cardhu Distillery, Cragganmore Distillery, Dailuaine Distillery, Dalwhinnie Distillery, Dufftown Distillery, Glendullan Distillery, Glen Spey Distillery, Knockando Distillery, and Mortlach Distillery. The Speyside sites have achieved ‘Core Level’ certification.

With water stress being one of the world’s biggest challenges, The United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 6 focuses on better water management as key to climate change and all businesses have a role to play in this. We have set ambitious targets for 2030 to address water sustainability across our business:

  • 30% improvement in water use efficiency globally and 40% in water stressed areas
  • Replenish all direct consumptive water used in water stressed areas
  • Complete 150 community water projects, including providing access to clean water, sanitation and hygiene
  • All of sites in priority water basins engaged in collective action to improve water security and certified to the Alliance for Water Stewardship Standard.




About the Alliance for Water Stewardship

Alliance for Water Stewardship (AWS) is a global membership collaboration including businesses, NGOs and the public sector. Our members contribute to the sustainability of local water-resources through their adoption and promotion of a universal framework for the sustainable use of water – the International Water Stewardship Standard, or AWS Standard – that drives, recognises and rewards good water stewardship performance.

AWS is registered as a Scottish Charitable Incorporated Organisation (SCIO) (SCO45894).