2 Aug 2019


Five questions answered about SBTs

Science-based targets (SBTs) is a joint initiative of CDP (formerly known as the Carbon Disclosure Project), the UN Global Compact (UNGC), the World Resources Institute (WRI) and WWF. The initiative’s goal is to enable leading companies to set ambitious and meaningful corporate greenhouse gas reduction targets. Businesses have an important role to play, explains Monica Richter, Senior Manager – Low Carbon Futures for WWF-Australia.

1. What is a science-based target (SBT)?

Science-based targets provide companies with a clearly defined pathway to future-proof growth by specifying how much and how quickly they need to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions.

Targets adopted by companies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions are considered ‘science-based’ if they align with climate science to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement – that is to limit global warming to well-below 2 degrees Celsius and pursue efforts to limit warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

2. Why should businesses pay attention?

The corporate sector has an important role to play in the transition to a low carbon economy. By setting a science-based target and aligning their greenhouse gas reduction targets with their fair share of the climate budget, companies can demonstrate leadership and responsibility.

Reducing greenhouse gas emissions protects our climate and our communities – and it’s also good for business. Setting a science-based target has been found to have other impacts on an organisation. Setting an ambitious long-term target will drive innovation, reduce regulatory uncertainty, strengthen investor confidence and credibility and improve profitability and competitiveness. The evidence is in. See here for more details on our research.

3. What does setting a science-based target involve?

Setting science-based targets represents a real shift in climate strategy for businesses by moving from quick wins to long-term ambitious goals based on the latest science. It can truly reshape a business’ operations and broadens the scope by shifting focus from what the company can achieve – however ambitious – to what it must achieve to do its fair share as part of global efforts.

A company can join the ‘call to action’ to publicly commit to set a target and then they have 24 months to develop a target. There are resources and support available to assist in this process based on the kind of business and sector. There are three science-based target setting approaches. These include sector, absolute and economic based approaches which enables companies to set targets that are most relevant to them and that account for the dynamics of the sector they operate in.

Then, a company must move from targets to action across its business from the energy it uses to its supply chain and customers or tenants. Companies must deploy actions to reach these long-term targets and can use its influence and purchasing power to help its supply chain and customers to also adopt change.

4. How many companies are on board?

Currently, over 600 of the largest and global companies are taking science-based climate action and over 237 companies have approved science-based targets. These organisations are found in many countries all over the world and across a range of different industry sectors.

In Australia, a number of organisations have set science-based targets including property companies such as Investa, Dexus, and Frasers Property Australia, who are the most recent to join this list. Others include Origin Energy and Edge Environment.  This is a significant starting point and we’re likely to see it become mainstream in the next 12 months or so as financial institutions come on board.

5. How can my organisation start setting targets

The best place to start is to visit the Science-Based Targets website and read the FAQs here.

The tools and resources page on the website also provides guidance and further advice. The revised manual is a great how-to guide to get started. We also run regular meetings for organisations wishing to proceed and can have a one-on-one discussion with you today. Get in touch to find out more. Email mrichter@wwf.org.au