Absolut Vodka: a carbon neutral distillery

Case Studies 19/05/2021

Åhus, a seaside town in the south of Sweden, is the only place in the world where Absolut vodka is produced, perfected and bottled. It is also home to our carbon neutral distillery and one of the most energy-efficient in the world. The Absolut’s distillery is 60% more energy-efficient than the average distillery, based on the latest BIER benchmark (2017 figures) and since 2013 it is also carbon neutral. 

What it means to be carbon neutral
Achieving the carbon neutral status still means a lot to Absolut because distillation is an energy-intensive activity. The team have unpicked the whole distillation process and continue to rework their operations with a focus on greater sustainability. Measures include negotiating a 100% renewable electricity contract that prioritises hydropower; implementing energy efficient systems; reducing the use of fossil fuels; and offsetting the minimal remaining carbon emissions by planting trees.

Powering up without fossil fuel
Absolut are on track to completely phase out their use of fossil fuels by 2025 with CO2 emissions from production per litre of alcohol distilled already 98% less than the average distillery [Source: BIER]. In 2004 the installation of new distillation equipment radically reduced energy consumption at the distillery, and since then the energy consumption per litre of Absolut Vodka produced has dropped by 45%. When you consider they produce around 100 million litres of vodka every year that’s a considerable achievement.

In 2018 they introduced a new fossil free fuel which can partly replace LPG, although it was a small proportion of total energy used this was a significant step towards phasing out of fossil fuels completely. When the team created a new method of using waste spirits to replace parts of the LPG the end result was a double benefit as both CO2 emissions and waste were reduced. More than 90% of the energy used by the distillery comes from renewable sources, and the main source of energy is EPD certified electricity which is generated by hydropower – a renewable energy source. 

Using EPD certified electricity as a main source of energy reduces emissions considerably but Absolut offset the minimal remaining emissions, through a Plan Vivo certified afforestation and deforestation prevention project.  

“Initially, we were focusing on energy efficiency – we have a philosophy that the best energy we use is the energy we don’t use at all,” says Absolut’s director of sustainable performance Tina Robertsson

Recycling heroes 
The Absolut distillery sends zero waste to landfill and they recycle or re-use everything possible. 
Waste spirits are recycled as fuel, and a by-product of the fermentation process is used to feed more than 250,000 pigs and cows around Åhus every day the distillery is in operation.

Everyone at Absolut is focused on making a contribution and even small changes such as switching to LED lighting and optimising pumps and phasing out fossil fuel reliant cars in the carpool make a difference. All employees take part in environmental training every five years in an expansive programme, covering business priorities and ways employees can make an impact through their own lifestyle choices. 

Trailblazing Brand

As a true trailblazing brand, Absolut is leading the way for other Pernod Ricard brands by sharing their knowledge and experience. Not content with what they have already achieved Absolut continues to reduce the CO₂ emissions both from the distillery and throughout the value chain as they head towards their 2030 ambition of creating carbon neutral product throughout the value chain. 

There are more ambitious ideas in the offing like on-site electricity generation and energy storage. As the distillery continues to reduce the burden on the public electricity grid new measures such as generation of electricity and storage of energy are being explored. A key benefit of storing energy is to relieve pressure on the public grid at times when consumption is high, and generation is low. Absolut will continue to reduce the CO₂ emissions both from the distillery and throughout the value chain to achieve their 2030 ambition of a carbon neutral product. 

Visit Absolut Vodka’s Brand Home in Sweden to learn more

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