Head of Sustainability

The Scotch Whisky industry has embraced ambitious targets to achieve a net-zero carbon footprint for its operations by 2045, in response to the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) sustainability strategy to deliver the target 10 years ahead of the UK Government’s target. Distilleries of all sizes are adapting to the challenge and sustainability is now high on the agenda. In addition to being environmentally responsible, there are hard business reasons why the industry is embracing sustainability, as significant cost reduction can be achieved by reusing and recycling and reducing energy consumption and water usage. In response, exciting new Sustainability roles are emerging to oversee execution, deliver net-zero and realise the financial benefits.

As Head of Sustainability, it will be your role to lead the organisations strategic approach to sustainability and to co-ordinate the activities required to deliver this goal. You will work closely with colleagues, customers, and shareholders to set out the policies and roadmap, together with the sustainability programmes and workstreams required to deliver.

Role Description

This is a high-profile position, and you will need to have a passion for sustainability and social impact, the project management skills to develop and deliver an effective plan, and the communication and influencing skills needed to positively engage with people.

Main duties and responsibilities

As Head of Sustainability, you will be working with the Board of Directors and need to engage with all departments across the business, as well as partners, charities, communications agencies, and the press. You will lead the sustainability initiatives for the business and develop a roadmap for its implementation. Your key responsibilities include:

  • Develop the overall strategic direction, roadmap and policies and have overall responsibility for delivery of the businesses sustainability programmes and workstreams.
  • Conduct research to identify environmental and sustainability concerns, interests, and issues that could be an opportunity or risk to the business.
  • Propose and implement strategies that address identified environmental concerns including energy use, resource conservation, reduction of pollution, recycling, waste elimination, transportation, building and facility design, and general education on sustainability.
  • Deliver the road map by mobilising internal teams around key issues such as packaging and procurement, ensuring compliance with sustainability guidelines and targets.
  • Lead the Sustainability initiatives outlined in the road map and act as the senior subject matters for all aspects of the businesses approach to sustainability, climate change and Scope 3 carbon emissions.
  • Ensure sustainability proposals pay attention to factors such as cost effectiveness, feasibility, and ease of integration with other programs.
  • Work with key stakeholders and departments to develop, define and support the delivery of sustainable KPIs across the business. Include methodologies that assess the viability or success of sustainability initiatives identified.
  • Monitor and evaluate the effectiveness of programmes and workstreams. Draft and prepare reports, presentations, and proposals, presenting proposals and recommendations to the board of directors, and other key stakeholders such as suppliers, employees, academia, media, government, public interest, or other groups.
  • Devise innovative ways to incorporate sustainability into the distilleries core operations, determining how to reduce the organisation’s environmental impact whilst maintaining the high-quality Scotch Whisky the business is famous for.
  • Monitor global trends in sustainability, innovation and regulation and develop strategies to maximise opportunities, minimise risk and adopt best practice.
  • Lead sustainability training across the organisation and develop internal and external communications and training materials.
  • Develop, marketing or outreach media campaigns for sustainability projects or events to create awareness and engagement.
  • Manage a collaborative, cross functional team of technical and other experts (including CSR, compliance managers, and data analysts) to progress sustainability initiatives.
  • Draft and implement sustainable organisational policies that address environmental concerns.
  • Prepare documentation required for project funding for various environmental initiatives including proposals and grant applications.

Skills and experience

As Head of Sustainability, you will be the face of the business in all sustainability related matters. You must be confident, self-motivated, and capable of handling and influencing a wide variety of people. In addition, you must have:

  • A passion for sustainability and its social impact
  • Strong critical thinking and strategic thinking skills with a demonstrable track record in developing programmes and workstreams.
  • Strong project management skills with outstanding, creative problem-solving and analytical skills.
  • Ability to establish excellent relationships and demonstrate outstanding collaboration and influencing skills.
  • Ability to work autonomously and the ability to set a fast-paced agenda.
  • Experienced at public speaking, presentation skills and ability to handle the media.
  • Understands and is well versed in relevant sustainability legislation, policy regulations and practices.
  • Previous experience in delivering sustainable or high-profile projects.
  • A solid understanding about how to incorporate sustainability into business operations.
  • Expert with Microsoft Office applications.
  • Professional certifications of additional areas of sustainability study/training i.e. ISSP

Qualifications Required

You will probably have direct experience successfully leading sustainability initiatives. With experience influencing diverse stakeholders with multiple and sometimes contradictory perspectives. In addition, you will have:

  • Bachelor’s degree in related field, Masters degree highly preferred.
  • Professional certification in sustainability related subjects.
  • Three to five years corporate, business and management experience.
Did you know?

The Scotch Whisky industry’s first Environment Strategy was launched in 2009, the first of its kind to cover an entire sector. Since then, the industry has made progress against its original targets, including:

  • A 34% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.
  • 28% of primary energy use is now from non-fossil fuel sources, up from 3% in 2008.
  • Efficiency of water use in Scotch Whisky production has improved by 22%, and
  • Just 1% of waste is now being sent to landfill, down 75% since 2016.

Interesting sustainability facts:

  1. Water efficiency in the Scotch Whisky industry has improved by 22% since the 2012 base year, more than double the 10% improvement target.
  2. Landfill waste from the Scotch Whisky industry is now down to just 1% over the last decade.
  3. 94% of Scotch Whisky packaging is reusable or recyclable packaging.
  4. The Scotch Whisky Industry leads the way by targeting to achieve Net Zero emissions in our own operations by 2040, 10 years ahead of the UK Government target.
Related Case Studies

The Scotch Whisky Association

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