Science-Based Targets
November 29, 2022

Science-Based Targets

Setting science-based targets (SBT) are set to reduce the worst impacts of climate change. SBT is one of the most important commitments companies can make to fight climate change.

What are Scienced-Based Targets?

Science-based targets (SBT) are emission reduction goals set out by organisations to achieve the goals set out by the Paris Agreement. They are founded on the most recent findings in climate science and offer businesses and organisations a clear road map for participating in the international fight against climate change.

What is the Paris Agreement?

The Paris Agreement is an international agreement aiming to reduce climate change's effects. The agreement was established in 2015 at the Conference of the Parties hosted by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and came into force on November 4, 2016.

Examples of science-based targets?

1. Have a maximum temperature increase of 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels. 

3. Halve greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions before 2030. 

4. Achieve net-zero GHG emissions before 2050.

How do you achieve science-based targets?

There is no straightforward answer to this question. Every company's approach to setting and achieving SBT will vary depending on its sector, size, and goals. However, companies will generally need to undertake a comprehensive and accurate emissions inventory for a baseline year analysis, set reduction goals that align with the latest climate science, and develop a plan to achieve those goals. Many companies are also working with the Science Based Targets Initiative (SBTI) to ensure their targets align with the latest climate science. Standard methods to reduce emissions include reducing the waste produced, reducing pollution, increasing renewable resources and investing in carbon offsetting initiatives. 

What are science-based target initiatives?

The Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi) is a partnership between the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP), the United Nations Global Compact (UNGC), the World Resources Institute (WRI) and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF). The initiative helps companies measure their GHG emissions and the amount they need to reduce emissions to achieve their SBT.

What are the benefits of setting science-based targets?

Science-based targets provide a logical and standardised plan for organisations to transition to a low-carbon economy and reduce their GHG emissions to avoid the most harmful impacts of climate change and stay competitive in the changing corporate industry.

SBT also provide business benefits to organisations:

Competitive advantage: Setting SBT can improve a company's competitiveness and market position by demonstrating a commitment to sustainability and climate action. As more companies set SBT, it is becoming the new standard to demonstrate sustainable commitments to keep up with competitors. 

Reputation: Customers and stakeholders increasingly prioritise organisations taking action against climate change and working to reduce their negative impacts on the environment. Setting SBT shows commitment to making a positive impact and thus engaging and retaining customers who prioritise this. 

Attracting talent: Like customers, employees are becoming more interested in working for companies that demonstrate sustainability and are environmentally friendly, so setting SBT can help attract and retain the best talent. 

Resilience: Managing climate-related risks are becoming increasingly crucial for businesses to avoid catastrophe, and setting SBT is essential in identifying and mitigating these risks. 

Increase innovation: Addressing climate change can also stimulate innovation and more efficient business operations by developing new products and services that meet the demands of a low-carbon economy in SBT.

Investor confidence: Setting SBT helps increase investor confidence by demonstrating the organisation's commitment to long-term value and the environment.

How is a science-based target set?

"Targets are considered ‘science-based’ if they are in line with what the latest climate science deems necessary to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement – limiting global warming to well-below 2°C above pre-industrial levels and pursuing efforts to limit warming to 1.5°C." - Science Based Targets

Organisations can set a target through the following procedure:

  1. Commit to the process.
  2. Develop the target in line with SBTi criteria.
  3. Submit it for validation to the SBTi.
  4. Communicate the target to stakeholders.
  5. Disclose progress annually in a report.

Why are science-based targets important for businesses?

Setting science-based targets not only benefits the planet but also provides numerous advantages for businesses. According to a survey conducted among companies committed to the Science Based Targets initiative, here are the key business benefits of setting science-based targets:

  1. Brand reputation: Companies with science-based targets enhance their brand reputation, as consumers increasingly prioritize sustainability and ethical consumption.
  2. Investor confidence: Sustainability is a criterion that investors consider when evaluating business credibility. Setting science-based targets boosts investor confidence and attracts forward-thinking, sustainably-minded investors.
  3. Resilience against regulation: By aligning with the Paris Agreement and proactively setting science-based targets, companies strengthen their resilience against future regulations targeting emissions-intensive activities.
  4. Increased innovation: Setting science-based targets drives innovation within companies, positioning them at the forefront of the low-carbon economy. Many companies expect a significant portion of their products and services to be low-carbon by 2030.
  5. Bottom line savings: Contrary to the belief that greening business models is costly, companies with science-based targets are already realizing bottom-line savings. These targets drive operational efficiency, cost reduction, and future resource scarcity mitigation.
  6. Competitive edge: Committing to science-based targets provides a competitive advantage in the low-carbon transition. Companies benefit from increased innovation, investor confidence, reduced uncertainty, and improved profitability.

By embracing science-based targets, companies can simultaneously contribute to climate change mitigation and unlock significant business advantages in the evolving sustainable landscape.

What is the difference between net zero and science-based targets?

Net zero targets are goals that businesses set to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions to zero over a specified period of time. This involves balancing emissions with activities that remove greenhouse gases from the atmosphere, such as planting trees. Science-based targets are emissions reduction goals that align with what the science says is necessary to avoid the worst impacts of climate change.

Who is behind science-based targets?

The Science Based Targets initiative is a partnership between the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP), the United Nations Global Compact (UNGC), the World Resources Institute (WRI) and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF).

The Carbon Disclosure Project is a non-profit organisation that encourages companies to measure, disclose, manage and reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. The CDP holds the world's largest database of primary climate change and water information. 

The United Nations Global Compact is a voluntary initiative launched by the UN Secretary-General in 2000. It aims to encourage businesses to align their operations and strategies with the ten universally accepted principles in the areas of human rights, labour, environment and anti-corruption. 

The World Resources Institute is a global research organisation that spans more than 60 countries. They work with governments, businesses and civil society to build sustainability into the way societies operate. 

The World Wildlife Fund is a leading conservation organisation, working in more than 100 countries worldwide. They take a science-based approach to conserving the world's wildlife and habitats.

How are science-based targets used?

Science-based targets are used in various ways, including setting goals for reducing emissions, increasing energy efficiency, and conserving natural resources. They can also inform decision-making about investments in new technologies, infrastructure and production.

How many companies use science-based target initiatives?

Over 4,000 companies have committed to setting science-based targets. Here are some companies that have committed to taking action.

When were Science-Based Target initiatives founded?

They were founded in 2015. 

What changes has SBTi made?

As of July 2022, the criteria for targets have changed. 

  1. Scope 1 and 2 ambition for temperature classification has changed from well below 2°C to 1.5°C. 
  2. Scope 3 ambition has changed from 2°C to well below 2°C. 
  3. The time frame for targets has changed from 15 years to 10 years. 

These changes have been made in response to the urgency for action and the success of SBTi in implementing change. 

The need for businesses to set science-based targets has never been greater. The time to act is now. The science is clear: to avoid the worst impacts of climate change, we must limit global temperature rise to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels. This will require net-zero emissions by 2050. Businesses play a critical role in achieving this goal, and setting science-based targets is one of the most important things they can do for our future.


Science Based Targets (SBT) are emission reduction targets in line with what the latest climate science says is necessary to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement. Science-based targets are specific, measurable, and time-bound objectives an organisation sets to mitigate and adapt to climate change. They are derived from the latest climate science and help an organisation stay within the limits of the planet's resources.