October 10, 2023

Understanding Science-Based Targets and Their Role in Business Sustainability

Understanding the SBTi

The Science-Based Targets (SBTs) and the Science-Based Target Initiative (SBTi) have emerged as benchmarks for corporations committed to battling climate change. Esteemed organisations like CDP, UN Global Compact, WRI, and WWF have supported the SBTi in offering businesses a clear direction for setting impactful emissions reduction goals in tandem with the Paris Agreement.

This piece delves deep into the essence of SBTi, highlighting its relevance and the transformation it brings to corporate sustainability. Discover why SBTi is crucial in today's corporate sphere and the measures your company can undertake to support this worldwide initiative.

Understanding the Science-Based Target Initiative (SBTi)

SBTi is the result of a partnership between notable entities: CDP, UN Global Compact, WRI, and WWF. The initiative's primary focus is to define and endorse superior practices in emissions cuts and extend support to companies that aspire to fix science-based targets (SBTs). Additionally, the SBTi introduced the SBTi Net-Zero Standard, an innovative benchmark for formulating corporate net-zero objectives.

In a nutshell, the SBTi:
  • Recommends the best courses of action for emissions reduction and net-zero achievements, all rooted in contemporary climate studies.
  • Shares valuable methodologies and insights for companies to define their emissions reduction objectives.
  • Encompasses a team of experts and researchers who ensure unbiased analysis and validation of these science-based targets.
Defining Science-Based Targets (SBTs)

SBTs provide corporations with a structured guide to curtail their greenhouse gas emissions. The "science-based" label emphasises their alignment with climate knowledge as laid out in the 2015 Paris ClimateAgreement, which aims to restrict global temperature rise to 1.5°C overpre-industrial levels.

Simply put, SBTs:
  • Serve as a connector between the Paris Climate Agreement and practical steps towards controlling global warming.
  • Enable organisations to shift from eco-conscious goals to genuine environmentally-friendly actions.
  • Stand as a primary vehicle for businesses to lead in the emission reduction charge.
  • Procedure to Set Science-Based Targets
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For corporations

SBTi distinguishes between SMEs and larger corporations or financial institutions when laying down procedures for setting science-based targets. SMEs have a simplified procedure, while larger entities undergo a detailed 5-step process. 

For corporations, the steps to establish emissions cut back objectives include: 

1. Commit
  • Declare intentions: Pledge through the SBTi platform via a commitment letter. SMEs (below 500 employees, except inFinancial and Oil & Gas sectors) can proceed directly to step 3.
  • Engage: If your goals resonate with net-zeroambitions, you're automatically enrolled in the Race to Zero initiative.
  • Recognition: Committing companies gain visibility on both SBTi and "We Mean Business" sites.
  • Time Constraints: Companies have a 24-month window post-commitment to finalise and convey their targets to SBTi, or they risk delisting.

2. Design Your Targets Aligning with Scientific Criteria
  • Craft your objective: Use SBTi's guidelines to establish your emissions reduction goal.
  • SBTi Resources: Initiate with the 'GettingStarted Guide' and delve further using the ‘SBTi Criteria’. Fine-tune using the available tools. Note: Some industries have dedicated guidelines.
  • Deadline: Aim to send targets within 24 months post-commitment.

3. Undergo Target Validation
  • Verify your goal: Forward your objective to SBTi for rigorous validation.
  • Submission: Employ the relevant form as per your company's nature. Refer to SBTi's resources for a smooth process.
  • Review Mechanism: SBTi's specialised panel scrutinises your submission and provides feedback.


4. Share Your Targets and Engage Stakeholders
  • Announce: Following SBTi's nod, make your goalknown to stakeholders.
  • Visibility Norms: Post-approval, your goal is showcased on SBTi and associated websites within a month. Ensure public disclosure within six months or face mandatory revalidation.
  • Communication Guide: A welcoming kit aids in shaping your communication approach.


5. Report on Your Advancements
  • Monitor & Share: After gaining approval, annually share your emissions data and observe goal advancements.
  • Reporting Platforms: Suggestions include CDP, annual reports, sustainability reports, and corporate websites. For a comprehensive guide, refer to the SBTi ‘Corporate Manual’.

Visit the Science Based Targets website: https://sciencebasedtargets.org/