Distilleries, like other food and drinks businesses, produce a lot of waste. Cooper King, a gin and whisky distillery run by Abbie Neilson and Chris Jaume, took on the challenge of developing a premium brand without the typical environmental issues of waste, energy usage during the production process and emissions associated with transportation of goods.
As the premium spirit market continues to boom in the UK, Cooper King Distillery set out to be a champion of sustainability and an industry leader in using a Circular Economy approach to simultaneously benefit the environment and the business.
This meant examining every element of the business to ensure it met their sustainability standards - from origami packaging and paper packing tape that negated the need for plastic packing materials, to working with a local farmer and a bakery to make use of their leftover grains and botanicals used during distillation. Supply chains are kept local, with every ingredient used coming from Yorkshire - Cooper King now even have their own beehives and some trial batches of juniper and lemongrass on-site to further reduce emissions.
They also use an innovative cold distillation system which uses a rotary evaporator to efficiently
capture delicate flavour compounds by evaporation and uses a closed-loop system to recycle the coolant rather than continuously using fresh water for the cooling process (saving 26,000 litres of water), and the whole distillery is powered by green energy.
Another innovation is their bottles, which have been carefully designed to be 300g lighter than a standard premium spirit bottle, using less glass, and generating fewer emissions in production and transport.
Customers can also return their bottles to be refilled at the distillery for a discount, incentivising reuse, and ensuring, as founder Abbie puts it, "that the customer is paying for the gin rather than the bottle."
Elements like these ensure that the carbon footprint of each bottle is as low as possible before it is offset through verified tree-planting programmes, but Cooper King go one step further, offsetting an additional kilogram of carbon per bottle, resulting in England's first carbon-negative, fully-circular gin.
All Cooper King gin bottles sport the 1% For the Planet logo - the only gin in Europe with the accreditation.
This means that Cooper King has pledged to donate 1% of gin sales to the Yorkshire Dales Millennium Trust (YDMT), which gets spent on planting woodland. Cooper King committed further to this by donating 2.5% of sales to the charity. "For every bottle of gin sold, we plant a square metre of woodland in the Yorkshire Dales. We go and do the planting with the charity during the winter planting season, so the impact is really tangible."
Cooper King has seen significant growth as a result of their green innovations, and with more consumers looking for sustainable products, look set to continue to lead the way.
We knew from the start of Cooper King that we wanted to ensure our distillery would be good for the planet, so we did our research and looked into new and innovative processes that would help us reach this, such as cold vacuum distillation, which has saved us 26,000 litres of water vs standard distillation.
Knowing that we wanted our business to be sustainable when we started meant we could build that ambition in at the start, rather than trying to change existing processes, but it has meant re-evaluating every element of the business, from designing new packaging to avoid using tape and bubblewrap, to the problem of what do with our leftover waste at the end of distillation.
Thinking holistically about sustainability is key, as is being open to collaborating with other businesses - we've worked with local farmers and a bakery to help us avoid waste, which has helped us become much more circular as a business.
"As part of the circular economy we strive to stop waste, improve efficiency, and look after
people and the planet. Operating sustainably is a mindset. It's about understanding the impact we have on the environment and exploring ways to mitigate this with bold, decisive action. Our sustainability story is rooted in real values close to ours and the public's hearts, and it's helped make our brand distinctive in a very competitive market."
- Number of bottles sold.
- Carbon footprint of gin (between 1.22 and 1.35kg CO2e).
- Amount of carbon offset through tree-planting schemes in Iberpapel Forest Plantation in Uruguay and with Yorkshire Dales Millennium Trust (166,000 kg).