Tackling climate change and driving sustainability goals within your business can feel overwhelming. But what if there was a clear, science-backed way to make a real difference? Science-based targets (SBTs) provide a roadmap for corporate climate action. This blog will break down what SBTs are, why they matter, and how you can set them for your business.

Science-based targets and why they matter

Science-based targets (SBTs) are specific goals set by companies to cut their greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. They’re designed to help keep the planet’s temperature from rising more than 2°C above pre-industrial levels, with a stronger push to keep it under 1.5°C, as outlined by the Paris Agreement. Before a company sets a goal, it’s important that they first measure their carbon footprint

Check out this handy guide on the three types of emissions accounted for.

Beyond doing their part to save the planet, companies that commit to SBTs also enjoy a range of benefits, including: 

  • Increased investor confidence and access to capital
  • Strengthening brand reputation and customer loyalty 
  • Potential cost savings through increased efficiency
  • Driving innovation and operational efficiency
  • Gaining a competitive edge in the market
  • Improved risk management

What is the Science-Based Targets initiative (SBTi)?

The Science-Based Targets initiative (SBTi) is a global body formed in 2015 to rally businesses around urgent climate action.

It defines and promotes best practices around science-based targets, offers resources and technical guidance, and independently assesses and approves the SBTs that companies set to inch towards net-zero. 

SBTi is a partnership between CDP, the United Nations Global Compact (UNGC), the We Mean Business Coalition, the World Resources Institute (WRI), and the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF).

As of 2024, it has validated targets set by more than 5,600 businesses worldwide.

Science-based targets: The framework

To help maintain the integrity and effectiveness of targets across different industries, the SBTi requires companies adhere to guidelines, including:

  • Targets must align with the latest climate science to keep global warming in check.
  • Scope 1 and 2 emissions must be covered. Scope 3 emissions must be included if they represent 40% or more of carbon footprint. 
  • Targets must span 5 to 15 years, ensuring a long-term commitment.
  • Offsets cannot count towards emission reductions.
  • Annual progress reporting is mandatory.
  • Targets must be reviewed and revalidated every 5 years.

These guidelines ensure that SBTs are credible, ambitious, and aligned with the latest climate science, providing a standardized approach for companies across different sectors.

Leveling the net-zero playing field

In 2021, the SBTi introduced a new standard to address inconsistencies in net-zero targets and anchor them in climate science. Pledges must now commit to making:

  • Deep cuts to value chain emissions, covering Scopes 1, 2, and 3.
  • Near- and long-term targets to halve emissions by 2030 and reach close to zero by 2050. Near-term targets must cover 95% of Scope 1 and 2 emissions and 67% of Scope 3 if included. Long-term targets should cover 95% of all emissions.
  • Investments beyond the value chain to mitigate climate change, while prioritizing direct emissions reductions.

Charting your course to science-based targets

Here’s a quick rundown of the steps to set your own science-based targets:

Step 1: Commit by sending a letter to the SBTi with your intent to set a target. Post it on your company’s website. The SBTi and We Mean Business Coalition will also post it on their respective platforms, amplifying your commitment.

Note: You have two years to submit a full application.

Step 2: Develop an emissions reduction target aligned with SBTi criteria, recommendations, and guidance. This involves calculating your company’s carbon footprint, determining your carbon budget, and setting ambitious yet achievable reduction targets.

Step 3: Submit your company’s target for official validation. This is where your full application, including detailed plans and calculations, is reviewed by the SBTi team.

Step 4: Communicate the target with an announcement to stay accountable and to keep your stakeholders informed. This can include press releases, updates on your website, and communications to employees and investors. Greenplaces can help you craft effective messaging and track your progress.

Step 5: Disclose company-wide emissions and measure progress against targets every year. This annual reporting is typically done through sustainability reports or CDP disclosures. Greenplaces’ platform can streamline this process, helping you collect data, track progress, and generate reports.

Now you know your SBTs…

Science-based targets are crucial for driving corporate climate action and achieving a sustainable future. They provide a clear roadmap to reduce emissions in line with the Paris climate agreement and they unlock a myriad of benefits for companies, such as innovation, resilience, and improved reputation.

The journey to a net-zero future starts with a single commitment. Looking for guidance on how to get started? At Greenplaces, we make sustainability simple and achievable for businesses of all sizes. Our platform equips you with the necessary tools and information to effectively measure, manage, and communicate your sustainability efforts with confidence. For more support, request a demo today.