What is the Science Based Target (SBT) Initiative?

03 April 2020

The Science Based Target Initiative has been created by 4 organisations:  DP, WWF, the World Resources Institute, and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development.

In the Paris Agreement, national governments committed to limit temperature rise to well below 2 degrees Celsius (°C) and pursue efforts to limit temperature rise to 1.5°C. Beyond these thresholds, the world will increasingly experience dangerously elevated amounts of sea-level rise, droughts, flooding, and other extremes. Despite the efforts of governments and other actors, total anthropogenic GHG emissions continue to increase. Under current trajectories, global mean temperatures are projected to increase by 3.7 to 4.8°C by the end of this century. Even under existing country-level commitments, emissions levels in 2030 will be 24 to 60 percent higher than they should be under least-cost 2°C scenarios (UNFCCC Secretariat 2016).

Companies have a pivotal role in ensuring that the global temperature goals are met, but most existing company targets are not ambitious enough. The majority of global GHG emissions are either directly or indirectly influenced by the corporate sector. Many companies, recognizing the risk climate change poses to their business and the opportunity it creates for leadership and innovation, have already committed to change by setting emission reduction targets. Yet, to date, most companies’ targets have been incremental and do not match the ambition and timelines consistent with a 2°C future.

SBT’s represent a more robust approach for companies to manage their emissions over the long haul. SBT’s are grounded on an objective, scientific evaluation of what is needed, rather than what is achievable by any one company. And they offer a firm foundation for organizations’ long-term climate change strategies, boosting companies’ competitive advantage in the transition to the low-carbon economy. Targets are considered “science-based” if they are in line with the level of decarbonisation required to keep global temperature increase below 2°C compared to pre- industrial temperatures.

Companies are increasingly adopting SBTs, although uncertainty exists regarding best practices. Over 350 multinational companies have already set an SBT and over 850 have committed to set an SBT in the near future through the Science Based Targets initiative. Because setting SBTs is an emerging practice, considerable uncertainty exists amongst companies around the benefits of settings SBTs, what kind of target may constitute an SBT, and best practices for both gaining internal support for SBT adoption and communicating SBTs to external audiences.