What are Science Based Targets (SBTs) to Net Zero?
Between 2021-2025, Science Based Targets Initiative (SBTi) has become the fastest growing and most reputable climate mitigation initiative in the corporate sector. It has mobilised 5234 companies in 60 countries and 50 secrets to align their decarbonisation plans with climate science in a robust and credible way (Pineda, 2021).
These targets are set to limit warnings to 1.5°C and avoid the worst effects of climate change. Because of this, global emissions must be halved by 2030. It’s important to note that despite the Paris Agreement, the world isn’t on a trajectory to limit climate change yet. This is why the next few years are significant (Pineda, 2021).
What are the key issues with setting SBTs?
Common issue around SBTs is similar to any business decision, it’s an investment which costs money and thus there needs to be clear strategy and reasoning as to why an organisation is setting these targets.
According to the Science-Based Targets Manual (2020), the advantages are:
- “Building business resilience & increasing competitiveness;
- Driving innovation & transforming business practices;
- Building credibility & reputation;
- Influencing & preparing for new policies, like the CSRD…” (2020)
To ensure the target’s credibility and rigor, it’s recommended for SBTs (2020) to:
- “If a company has significant Scope 3 emissions (over 40% of total scope 1, 2, 3) it should get a Scope 3 target;
- Scope 3 targets generally need not be science-based, but should be ambitious, measurable and clearly demonstrate how a company is addressing the main sources of value chain GHG emissions in line with current best practice.
- The scope 3 target boundary should include the majority of value chain emissions, for example, the top three emissions source categories or two-thirds of total scope 3 emissions;
- The nature of a scope 3 target will vary depending on the emissions source category concerned, the influence a company has over its value chain partners and the quality of data available from those partners.” (p. 6).
Other issues pertaining to credibility and rigor are related to internal stakeholders, which need to be on board for careful consideration & planning. These goals ought to be inclusive, working with all levels of the company, access feasibility and co-create practical implementation plans (p. 7).
Employees - the key to achieving your SBTs
By engaging and empowering employees, organisations can harness their collective efforts and commitment to drive meaningful progress towards SBTs and broader sustainability objectives.
Employees role in SBTs (2020) is related to:
- Engagement and awareness: Employees need to be educated and aware of the importance of your SBTs. This includes understanding of the organization’s sustainability goals, the rationale behind SBTs and potential impacts of climate change (p.12);
- Behavioral change: Employees can contribute to SBTs by making sustainable choices and adopting environmentally friendly practices in their day-to-day work. This includes recycling, reusing, daily commute, business travel, energy consumption, food, drinks, etc. (p. 13);
- Innovation & ideas: Encouraging & rewarding innovation and sustainable practices leads to better employee engagement, valuable insights, and of course innovation (p. 8);
- Collaboration & team work: Achieving SBTs requires collaboration & team work. In order for your initiatives to be successful, it’s necessary for your employees to collaborate cross-organisation and department (p. 14);
- Reporting & monitoring: Your employees may be involved in collecting data and information needed for tracking progress towards SBTs. This includes measuring & reporting emissions, providing input for sustainability reports & disclosures, monitoring energy use, recycling, etc. The challenge however is that reporting is often time consuming, and it is advisable to consider automation and real time reporting (p.8);
What’s the ROI of employee engagement in your SBTs?
Enhanced Sustainability Culture: Because when you engage your employees you’re creating a sustainable culture within the organisation. When employees are actively involved in committing sustainability goals, it creates a shared sense of purpose and responsibility towards environmental issues and the planet. It creates increased motivation and satisfaction - alongside feelings of fulfillment and pride in their roles.
Cost savings and efficiency gains: Because when you engage employees they will take their own initiatives for energy and resource savings, waste reduction and process optimisation. By implementing these suggestions, organizations achieve cost savings, operational efficiencies, and reduced Scope 3 emissions.
Positive Reputation & Brand Image: Employee engagement in SBTs demonstrates a commitment to sustainability and responsible business practices. This can enhance the organization's reputation among stakeholders, including customers, investors, and the wider community. A strong sustainability track record can contribute to a positive brand image and differentiate the organization in the marketplace.
Attraction & Retention of Talent: Organizations that prioritize sustainability and actively engage employees in SBTs will attract & retain top talent, especially from Gen Z and Millenials. Many individuals are seeking purpose-driven work and want to align themselves with organisations that prioritise environmental & social responsibility.
Carrillo Pineda, A. (2021, July 15). Let’s limit warming to 1.5°C: Our new 2021-2025 strategy. Science Based Targets. Retrieved from https://sciencebasedtargets.org/blog/our-ambitious-new-strategy
Science-Based Target Initiative. (2020). Science-Based Target Setting Manual (Version 4.1). Retrieved from https://sciencebasedtargets.org/resources/legacy/2017/04/SBTi-manual.pdf