Science-based targets – what, why and how?

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Science-based targets - what, why and how?

In the latest news from the movement for science-based targets, the Science Based Target initiative (SBTi) has launched a new service for target validation, which will be available from 31st August this year. The service has been designed to increase the speed of validation (within 20 business days) and provide businesses with more in-depth feedback from target reviewers.

The new service will be subject to a cost of USD 5,000 per submission (includes up to two target assessments). Although the existing free service will continue to be available until the end of the year, please note that from 2019 this will be discontinued and the new cost and service will apply to any submissions to the SBTi.

In the past few years, the movement for science-based targets has continued to gather pace. If you have missed it so far, everything you need to get you up to speed is below.

What are science-based targets?

Prior to SBTs, organisations were free to set emission reduction targets themselves. Targets have typically been based on predicted organisational performance, energy efficiency feasibility as well as the performance of a peer group, the expectations of stakeholders or a combination of the above.

Science-based targets (SBT) focus not on the organisation, its commercial environment or its ability to meet a predefined and achievable goal, but are aligned with climate science and what we collectively need to do to limit the impacts of climate change.

In essence, SBTs establish emission reductions that support the global actions required to limit temperature increases to below 2 degrees Celsius from pre-industrial levels. Given the scale of that challenge, these targets are by necessity long-term (sometimes as far into the future as 2050) and ambitious (including reductions of over 50% from current emissions levels).

This framework for setting emissions targets has already been adopted by companies such as Mars, BT and Ben and Jerry’s. The uptake of the science-based approach is increasing, and now over 400 companies have committed to the Science Based Targets Initiative, a joint venture between CDP, WRI, WWF and UN Global Compact.

Why set science-based targets?

Setting science based targets makes sense when considering the challenge we collectively face in managing dangerous climate change. But setting them will also bring multiple benefits to your company. Setting a SBT can help drive emissions, energy and cost reduction internally and satisfy key external stakeholder and reporting requirements:

  • Future-proofing
    When governments begin implementing plans to achieve the reductions they committed to at COP21 in Paris, companies who have adopted SBTs will be ahead of the game in terms of legislative and reporting activities.
  • Risks & Opportunities
    Detailed analysis of operations and supply chains to inform the target setting process helps identify risks and opportunities within your business. This enables more robust management of any climate-related risk and identification of opportunities that may benefit your operations or even your bottom line.
  • Cost Savings
    Aggressive targets drive cost reductions in energy and for any carbon taxes your company is liable to pay.
  • Reporting Performance
    External benchmarking indices are placing increasing pressure on companies to build and disclose SBTs, which will affect your performance scores.
  • Reputation
    SBTs demonstrate strategic, long-term thinking and leadership, reinforcing positive reputations with investors and customers. It is after all the right thing to do.

How to set science-based targets

Setting a SBT is different from traditional emission reduction targets. SBTs are ‘top down’, long-term and more challenging in nature.

  1. Assess the feasibility of setting and meeting a science-based target
  2. Identify a targeting approach that’s right for you 
  3. Calculate and confirm your science-based target 
  4. Apply for SBTi approval
  5. Achieve your target

For everything you need to know about these steps, download our SBT Factsheet

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About EcoAct

At EcoAct we are driven by a shared purpose to make a difference. To help businesses to implement positive change in response to climate and carbon challenges, whilst also driving commercial performance.

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Do you know how to set a science based target? Our factsheet on the 5 steps to setting and meeting a science based target will show you how to align your carbon reduction targets with the rate of decarbonisation required by science to limit global warming to well below 2 degrees. Learn how to assess the feasibility of your target, the recommended approaches and the stages of calculating an SBT.

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