glossary

Science Based Targets

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What is a Science Based Target?

Science based targets are a set of goals with well-defined guidelines that help companies reduce their greenhouse gas emissions in order to prevent the negative impact of climate change. According to the Science Based Target initiative, those targets are considered to be science-based if they are in line with the goals of the Paris Agreement to limit global warming to 1.5°C. 


What is the Science Based Target initiative?

The Science Based Targets initiative, launched in 2015, promotes science-based targets to strengthen the competitive position of companies that (want to) move to a low-carbon economy. The companies participating in the initiative’s call-to-action commit themselves to setting a science-based climate target within the next two years. In line with the results of the Paris Agreement, they attempt to limit global warming to 1.5°C or well below 2°C. The overall goal is for science-based targets to become standard practice in businesses and for companies to play an important role in reducing global greenhouse gas emissions. In order to achieve this, the embedding of these goals in sustainability management is of central importance.


The initiative is a collaboration between the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP), the United Nations Global Compact (UNGC), the World Resources Institute (WRI) and the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) and is one of the commitments of the ‘We Mean Business Coalition’.

Setting targets according to the Science Based Targets is already part of the annual reporting practice of companies, as it is included in the CDP questionnaire and assessment.

The initiative supports the integration of science-based targets into existing climate leadership platforms, including UN Caring for Climate, WWF Climate Savers and others. Science-based objectives are included in the CAIT climate data.


How to set Science Based Targets?

If a company wants to set a science based target, it should follow the following steps:


  1. Commit - send a letter to the SBTi declaring your intention to set a science based target
  2. Develop - work on your reduction target following the SBTi criteria
  3. Submit - present your target to the SBTi for official validation
  4. Communicate - announce your target and share it with your stakeholders
  5. Disclose - report on your company’s emissions and progress against your set target


Why should my company set a Science Based Target?

By setting a science based target, companies can show customers their commitment to sustainability  and their combat against climate change more concretely, while becoming a pioneer in their industry. This might also encourage other companies, customers and suppliers to join in and push governments to take further action in the battle against global warming. According to the SBTi, setting science based targets will also help companies to ‘save money, provide resilience against regulation, boost investor confidence, and spur innovation and competitiveness’.