Five things you need to know about Science Based Targets


Five things you need to know about Science Based Targets

Should your business be setting a SBT?

Science Based Targets provide a pathway for companies to reduce their greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in line with the 2015 Paris Agreement. The Paris Agreement set an ambitious target: to limit the increase in global warming to well below 2°C (and preferably to 1.5°C), compared with pre-industrial levels. In response, many countries began developing plans on how to reach them. The Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi) translates the Paris requirements into tangible emission-reduction goals for businesses. With over 2,700 organisations signed up to date, should your business be setting a SBT too?

Author: Marijn van Beek, Consultant,

Five things you need to know about Science Based Targets

ONE They provide validation for your decarbonisation ambitions. 

The targets are set using detailed assumptions for defining decarbonisation targets consistent with the Paris Agreement. Commitment is a formal approach, after which your targets are reviewed and validated against science-based criteria.

TWO Committing to a science-based target is not the same as committing to net zero.

Committing to science-based targets requires an emission-reduction plan for the medium term (2030) in line with the SBTi criteria. You can’t use offsets. If you wish to set a net-zero target, you must set both medium and long-term (2050) targets, with the assumption that any emissions you cannot reduce may be eliminated (albeit as a last resort). Working towards consistent corporate net-zero targets, the SBTi is now developing a science-based framework for the formulation and assessment of net-zero targets for organisations. Such a framework makes it possible to assess your organisation’s contribution to the global net-zero goal. However, both targets are currently different and distinct from one another.

THREE Validation is a multi-step process, with legwork behind each stage.

To start the SBT process, you first have to establish your company's intent to set an SBT. After signing up, you have two years to develop the SBT goals and send final documentation for SBTi validation and approval. To submit targets for validation, you must calculate your current GHG emissions, define the company's ‘business as usual’ scenario and develop a decarbonisation pathway. After validation, you can announce your target and inform your stakeholders. From there, you report your business-wide emissions, and track your yearly progress.

FOUR A credible baseline is key.

Before setting your company's target, you need to set a credible baseline. Make sure you use a representative baseline year – for example, taking into account exceptional events that may affect business as usual (e.g., COVID). Clarity on boundaries and scope of reporting is vital. Importantly, if your Scope 3 emissions contribute a large part of your overall emissions, you need to report on all 15 Scope 3 categories, as identified by the GHG Protocol, so an in-depth understanding of your Scope 3 emissions is key.

FIVE Decide whether setting a SBT is right for your organisation.

Setting an ambitious target (ideally 50% reduction over 10 years or more) with interim goals independently assured may be another path to take. Or you may decide you want to be even more ambitious and set a net-zero goal. 

Whatever your choice, external assurance of your decarbonisation ambitions, setting targets and reporting against interim targets to demonstrate progress is important, to dispel any claims of greenwashing.

For advice and support along your decarbonisation journey, speak to our Sustainability team using the details below.



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