Helping business set science based targets

By Safia Minney & Kevin Boon


The organisation Science Based Target Initiative (SBTi), set up in 2015, works with the corporate sector to facilitate them setting and meeting emission targets. Safia Minney joined one of their webinars to find out more.

Climate change targets adopted by companies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions are considered ‘science-based’ if they are in line with what the latest climate science says is necessary to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement.

This translates to global emissions reaching net zero around 2050 to give a reasonable chance of limiting warming to 1.5°C.

Given the fact that even a 1.5°C change would see loss of biodiversity and human suffering, and that most companies rarely manage to achieve anything on-time, many feel businesses should aim for net zero by 2030 – a mere 10 years away.

Overall, business has an overwhelming impact on greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. In fact, just 100 key companies have been estimated to be responsible for 71% of global emissions between 1988 and 2017. 

How SBTi works

The SBTi develops guidance, tools, and technical assistance to facilitate the adoption of science-based criteria and encourages companies to set meaningful targets. Companies who meet target-setting criteria can use the SBTi logo and will be featured on the website. 

All Scope 1 (direct emissions under the organisation’s control) and Scope 2 (indirect emissions from electricity purchased) emissions are classified under one of three categories: 2°C, well-below 2°C and 1.5°C.  

The SBTi is also starting to look at Scope 3 target setting (all other indirect emissions linked to the company such as supply chains or value chains).

Creating the methodology and target setting, across all relevant scopes in line with 1.5 degrees emissions scenarios by 2050 will include Scope 3 if it represents 40% or more of the total emissions generated by the business. 

The SBTi will only accept target submissions of Scope 1 and 2 that are in line with either well-below 2°C or 1.5°C trajectory.  Companies are encouraged to adopt the stricter target of 1.5°C.

Which companies are setting SBTi’s?

At present, there are 885 companies from a wide variety of sectors that are involved with SBTi including Sony, Pfizer, Kelloggs, Tesco, Dell and Coca Cola. Of these, 373 companies have approved science-based targets with 211 having committed to the business ambition for 1.5°C campaign. 

SBTi are undertaking sector-specific development projects which will provide tools, methodology and guidance enabling companies to set SBTs. The guidance for the apparel and footwear sector was launched in June 2019. The following companies are taking action: 

Adidas AG

Aldo Group Inc. (well below 2°C)

American Eagle Outfitters Inc.

Arc’teryx Equipment (1.5°C)

Artistic Milliners

ASICS Corporation (well below 2°C)

Bestseller A/S

Burberry Ltd. (1.5°C)

Chanel (1.5°C)

Eastman Exports Global Clothing PVT Ltd.

Eileen Fisher (1.5°C)

Elevate Textiles

Fruit of the Loom Inc.

Grupo Malwee

Guess? Inc.

Hugo Boss AG

Kering (well below 2°C)

Lars Partners

Lenzing AG (2°C)

Levis Strauss and Co. (1.5°C)

Lojas Renner S.A.


Nahar Industrial Enterprises Ltd.

Nike Inc (1.5°C)

Olive Apparel (Cambodia) Co. Ltd.

Omax Cotspin PVT Ltd.

On Running

Pandora A/S, Puma SE (well below 2°C)

PVH Corporation (1.5°C)

Ralph Lauren Corporation

Richemont International S.A.

Salvatore Ferragamo Group

SC Tailor Studio SRL

SCM Garments PVT Ltd.

Scoop-Storecode Texteis S.A.

Skunkfunk (1.5°C)

Tai Wah Garment Industry Sdn. Bhd.

Ted Baker

The Schneider Group

Tintex Textiles S.A.

Vaude Sport

VF Corporation (1.5°C)

White House

YKK Corporation

Zalando SE.

Stages of setting a target

There are four stages to a company setting a target. These are:- 

  • Submitting a commitment letter (either standard, business ambition for 1.5°C or target setting for SMEs)
  • Develop target (to be completed within 24 months of signing commitment letter)
  • Submitting target for validation (cost of USD $4950 or USD $1000 for SMEs)
  • Announce the target (within 6 months of approval). 

There is a fast-track process for SMEs and targets can be upgraded after they have been set. 

The advantages for a company setting a science-based target are numerous. Setting a target provides momentum to finding innovative solutions and creates certainty and confidence for both employees and investors.

Committing to achieve the targets means companies will have far greater resilience not only against the impact of climate change but also any future regulatory and financial changes. The COVID-19 crisis has shown that those companies with more robust environmental, social and governance (ESG) credentials are riding the storm better than those with poorer credentials.

Future resources

SBTi priorities for this year are:

  • Encouraging companies to align with 1.5°C
  • Developing a net zero framework for all sectors: this includes principles, definition, criteria and guidance. Currently only two are completed.
  • Science-based Scope 3 target setting: foundational research and scoping of next steps.
  • Monitoring, reporting and verification framework.

The relatively small decrease in carbon emissions associated with economic slowdown during the COVID-19 pandemic (estimated as around 4-7%) demonstrates the size of the challenge ahead in meeting the Paris Agreement goals. To meet the 1.5°C goal will require 7.6% cut in emissions each year from 2020-2030.  

The Science Based Targets initiative, the UN Global Compact, and the We Mean Business coalition have prepared a statement urging governments around the world to align their COVID-19 economic aid and recovery efforts with the latest climate science. This has been signed by 155 companies.

Conclusion: At REAL Sustainability we applaud the work of the SBTi but we need to do more; go further and faster and be more ambitious in our targets. There are no excuses for delay.

For more information go to To register for SBTi’s future webinar entitled ‘How to set a Science-Based Target to Achieve Net-Zero’ on the 20th August,  click here.

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