What are Science Based Targets?

What are Science-based targets and why are companies setting them? We've written a short primer for companies looking to understand SBTi and the process of becoming Net Zero. Read more below to learn about an increasingly popular climate disclosure framework used by companies across the world.

Why are we talking about Science-Based Targets ("SBTs")?

Science-based targets are a set of goals developed by a company to provide it with a clear path to reducing greenhouse gas emissions.


With dangerously hot temperatures sweeping the globe, the reality of climate change is sinking in. Efforts to curb greenhouse gas emissions in the private sector have been underway for decades, yet it is clear that more targeted actions are necessary.


While corporations have historically relied on carbon footprints and carbon offsets as their main method of climate action, using science-based targets is an alternative method which includes setting clear, standardized carbon reduction strategies based on proven climate science. This article explains why your company should consider using science-based targets as a tool to mobilize against climate change.


What are SBTs?


In 2013, Climate Counts and The Center for Sustainable Organizations introduced the concept of Science Based Targets through their publication, Assessing Corporate Emissions Through the Lens of Climate ScienceThe publication opened the conversations on how effectively the private sector sets carbon reduction targets. Since then, the definition of science-based targets has evolved to align with the 2015 Paris Agreement to limit the future increase in global temperatures below to 2°C, while pursuing efforts to limit the temperature increase even further to 1.5°C.  




Historically, many businesses were starting to measure and offset their footprint, there was no standard for carbon reduction – and in particular, there were no reduction targets tied to the Paris Agreement targets.


Enter science-based targets (SBTs). SBTs translate the Paris Agreement's goals to the corporate level and provide clearly defined system-level strategies for companies to reduce GHG emissions. In other words, SBTs give companies a framework to understand what they need to do to commit to aggressive climate goals and when they need to do it.



Why Do Companies Set Them?


Companies set science-based targets to be more transparent and accurate when disclosing their climate goals. By adhering to SBT standards, reporting companies are setting a more standardized target to reduce their emissions to zero. In addition, your company can expect to:


  • Be a leader in sustainability: Using SBTs leads to more effective outcomes since they are based on scientific evidence and not just generic aspirations. These commitments will inspire innovation in your company’s sustainability management.



  • Build a resilient business: Traditional energy markets are volatile for business. SBTs will set your company up for a future that is less reliant on traditional fossil fuels and more reliant on renewable energy.


What Does your Company Have to Do to Set SBTs?


In order to encourage businesses to adopt science-based targets, the Science-based Targets Initiative (SBTi) was established by a partnership between theCarbon Disclosure Project, the UN Global Compact, the World Resources Institute, and the World Wildlife Fund. The mission of the SBTi is to help companies commit to and meet science-based targets. You can start your journey online and join the over 3,000 businesses worldwide already working with the SBTi. SBTi has created tools and extensive guidance documentation to enable companies to develop science-based emission reduction targets. They will also independently validate targets set by companies, certifying them as correctly following the Science-Based Target Initiative methodology. [JH1] 


How Green Places Can Help


If you are a company looking into setting SBTs, Green Places can be your dedicated source to assist you in that journey.


Developing SBTs is a multi-step process and can only begin once a company has the emissions and activity input data necessary to create an emissions reduction target in line with the SBTi’s criteria.

It is impossible to set a science based target, or reach net zero without accurately measuring your emissions. This is where Green Places comes in.

We will help you measure the carbon emissions in your value chain and consider actions to address  scope 1, 2 and 3 emissionsEquipped with that information, we can help you begin the target setting and calculations process.  

Small Changes, Big Impact

Tiny Earth Toys, a Durham-based toy company, creates beautiful and sustainable wooden toys for children of all ages. Founder & CEO, Rachael Classi discusses her personal sustainability ethos and its impacts on the company’s origins and trajectory as well as her own personal journey with sustainability. // Images courtesy of Tiny Earth Toys