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


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It’s not a secret that companies have a fundamental role in the fight against climate change. Knowing that, according to the Science Based Targets initiative, «1,000 companies among the most polluting are responsible for 20% of the total global greenhouse gas emissions» is enough to comprehend the importance of involving them in the ecological transition.

Science-Based Targets allow companies to set themselves concrete, science-based goals, commit to pursuing them over the coming years and communicate them publicly.

In this article, we will explore the Science-Based Targets initiative (SBTi) and explain why it is essential for companies to commit to it.



Science-Based Targets initiative – definition and origins


The Science-Based Targets initiative encourages and helps companies define GHG emission reduction targets based on the latest scientific recommendations of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The main goal of this intergovernmental body is to create strategies to achieve the level of decarbonization required to keep the rise in global temperatures below 2°C, or even 1.5°C, compared with pre-industrial levels.

This initiative has been created in 2015 thanks to the collaboration of the following organisations:

  • Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP) – NGO that provides a global system for companies and cities to measure, disclose, manage and share environmental information;
  • UN Global Compact – group of 12,000 companies and organisations forming the world’s largest corporate social responsibility initiative;
  • World Resources Institute (WRI) – global research organisation in the fields of environment and socio-economic development;
  • WWF – independent nature conservation organisation.



How to be validated by the SBTi – criteria and targets


To obtain the validation of the targets by the SBTi, a company must meet several criteria and follow 4 specific steps.

  1. Commit to fixing an SBT-compliant strategy by writing a letter of engagement;
  2. Develop an SBT strategy in line with the eligibility criteria;
  3. Submit the strategy and wait for the confirmation that it’s compliant to all the SBT criteria;
  4. Announce publicly the commitment to the SBTi.



SBTi criteria


Companies that want to adhere to the SBTi and get certified have to satisfy a number of criteria. Here’s a non-exhaustive list:

  • Account for and reduce emissions from scopes 1 and 2, and eventually scope 3 based on the size, sector and quantity of emissions of the company (reducing scope 3 is in any case strongly recommended for all companies);
  • “Carbon credits” can’t be counted as a reduction of emissions in regards to the near-term objectives;
  • Target all greenhouse gases included in the GHG Protocol;
  • Publish an annual report concerning the emissions and the progress in regards to their targets;
  • Revise targets at least once every 5 years and whenever there are changes that could compromise the relevance and feasibility of an existing target;
  • Publish all material relating to the SBT strategy (reports, targets, strategy, etc.).

Other than this criteria, the SBTi provides sector-specific guidelines, which you can find in the official criteria and recommendations guide.



SBTi targets


As previously mentioned, companies that decide to adhere to the SBTi have to create a strategy to reduce their emissions that will allow to keep the rise of temperatures under 2°C or 1,5°C compared to preindustrial levels.

To do so, companies can choose to commit to two different kinds of targets – the near-term objectives and the long-term objectives. The former require companies to draw up a plan for a period of 5 to 10 years. If targets exceed this 10-year period, companies will have to adhere to long-term targets.

Companies that set themselves targets of these two types can also sign up to the Corporate Net-Zero Standard. This standard was created by SBTi to provide a scientific framework for those wishing to achieve net zero by 2050. In practical terms, committing to achieving this goal by adhering to this standard means reducing emissions by at least 90%. To ‘neutralise’ the remaining emissions, companies must use permanent carbon elimination methods, but these may not represent more than 5 to 10% of total emissions.



Why is the SBTi important?


As previously mentioned, companies play an essential role in the fight against climate change. Committing to the science-based targets is an important action that would allow a faster ecological transition. However, there are other reasons that can motivate companies further and lead to candidate to get this certification:


  1. Make a business resilient and permanent

Climate change represents a risk for the supply of raw materials and energy resources. Committing to the 2°C trajectory will help secure the continuity of our business, even more so if we engage the other actors of our supply chain.


  1. Stimulate innovation

For decarbonization to take place, companies need to innovate. Those who set ambitious targets today will be the most innovative tomorrow.


  1. Save money and boost competitiveness

To reduce their emissions, companies will have to improve their energy efficiency, manage risks and optimise their processes. This will enable them to make savings and strengthen their competitiveness.


  1. Strengthen credibility and reputation

Stakeholders – customers, investors, employees, etc. – are placing increasing emphasis on corporate social and sustainability practices. Having a globally recognized emissions reduction strategy helps answer to demand trends and improve a company’s reputation.


  1. Influencing public policies and anticipating their evolution

By acting now, companies can anticipate future policies and regulations aimed at limiting GHG emissions. Those who position themselves as pioneers will be able to influence political decision-makers and contribute to the drafting of new legislation.




It’s time to take action


At Tapio, our sustainability experts help companies to reduce their environmental impact. Our expertise is based on international protocols and best practices such as SBTi.






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