The Peatland Water Sanctuary scheme, encompassing large-scale peatland restoration and conservation and watershed conservation in Scotland, follows Suntory and Beam Suntory's establishment of natural water sanctuaries in the US and Japan.
Jointly, the companies plan to invest more than $4 million in the restoration and conservation of 1,300 hectares of peatland by 2030 - enough to produce the same amount of peat that Beam Suntory harvests each year to make its Scotch whiskies (based on an estimated natural accumulation rate of 1mm per year across the restored area).
Suntory and Beam Suntory will also undertake new watershed conservation projects at various locations around Scotland, the first of which is due to begin at the Ardmore distillery in November 2021. At the same time, peatland restoration works are set to commence near the Ardmore distillery, with the initial phase seeing nearly 15 hectares of peatland in the Ardmore Knockandy Hill north slope restored.
Initial assessments for new projects are already underway on Islay, where Beam Suntory's Bowmore and Laphroaig distilleries are located, while surveys for watershed activities near its Auchentoshan and Glen Garioch distilleries are also being planned.
This initial restoration project is being undertaken in partnership with the James Hutton Institute, which is assisting with research, planning and execution, and Forestry and Land Scotland, which owns the land.
Tak Niinami, CEO of Suntory Holdings, said: "The Peatland Water Sanctuary initiative is inspired by Suntory's Mizu to Ikiru ('Living with Water') promise, which is underpinned by our mission to create harmony with people and nature. We believe that water flowing through the peatlands is suited for whisky production, and by restoring and conserving peatlands, we hope not only to contribute to preserving whisky production as an indispensible part of Scotland's culture, but also fulfil our responsibility as a company that relies on the blessings of nature."
The long-term aim of the Peatland Water Sanctuary initiative is that, by 2040, Suntory and Beam Suntory will have restored sufficient peatlands to equate to twice the volume of peat it harvests annually for its Scotch whiskies. The initiative aligns with the Suntory Group Sustainability Vision and Beam Suntory's Proof Positive sustainability strategy, as well as the Scotch Whisky Association's environmental commitments.
David Hunter, chief supply chain officer at Beam Suntory, said: "As part of our Proof Positive sustainability strategy, we believe it's our responsibility to make a positive impact on the environment in which we operate, which is why we are committing to restoring and conserving as much peat as we harvest by 2030, as well as conserving watersheds across Scotland."
Prof Colin Campbell, CEO of the James Hutton Instititute, said: "Healthy peatlands help build resilience into our water supplies and restoring them allows nature to recover from the impact of climate change and promotes long-term carbon sequestration. These natural assets are essential for sustaining one of Scotland's most important industries, and it is truly a pleasure to work with partners who have such a well-developed philosophy around the protection of our natural environment."
Despite the Scotch whisky industry only accounting for 1 per cent of the country's peat use, distilleries and drinks conglomerates including Suntory and Beam Suntory have laid plans to restore the areas from which they harvest their peat as part of broader sustainability commitments.