Setting Science Based Targets

In our last blog we introduced what Science-Based Targets (SBT) were and why they were important. In this blog we will outline the steps required to set them.

Step 1: Commit to setting a Science Based Target

Committing to setting an SBT is an important first step. It shows that your business is serious about climate change and that you are committed to taking actions that reduce your emissions and make a real difference. To commit to setting an SBT, you can submit a letter of commitment to the SBTi. 

  • By signing this commitment letter, your business expresses its intent to establish an emission reduction target that adheres to the specific target-setting criteria outlined by the Science-Based Targets initiative (SBTi). 
  • Once you’ve completed the online registration, submitted the commitment letter to, and successfully undergone the due diligence process, your business will be acknowledged as “committed.” This recognition will be featured on the SBTi’s website, as well as on partner websites affiliated with We Mean Business. If your business is a participant in the UN Global Compact, this commitment will also earn you recognition on the UNGC website. 
  • There is a strong encouragement to aim for the utmost level of ambition when defining business targets. Additionally, a commitment to establish a long-term science-based target for achieving net-zero greenhouse gas emissions throughout the value chain, no later than 2050, is strongly encouraged.
  • Businesses that commit to these long-term science-based targets, with the aim of aligning their operations with a 1.5°C future, will also be acknowledged as participants in the Race to Zero campaign. Furthermore, it’s worth noting that the SBTi has introduced a Net-Zero Standard tailored for businesses.

Step 2: Develop your Science Based Target

To develop a science-based target (SBT), you will need to follow these steps:

Calculate your baseline emissions

Your baseline emissions is the amount of greenhouse gases that your company emits in a given year. You can use the Greenhouse Gas Protocol to calculate your baseline emissions.

Scope 1 emissions are direct emissions from owned or controlled sources, such as the combustion of fossil fuels in vehicles or factories. Scope 2 emissions are indirect emissions from the purchase of electricity, heat, and steam. Scope 3 emissions are indirect emissions from the value chain, such as the transportation of goods and the disposal of waste. 

A scope 3 screening assessment can be used to identify which scope 3 emissions are relevant to your business and should be included in the SBT target boundary.

When choosing a baseline year, the SBTi recommends selecting the most recent year for which data is available. If the baseline year is chosen earlier than the previous two years, then the business must also submit the most recent year’s greenhouse gas inventory alongside the baseline year for validation of targets. Some exceptions may apply due to the COVID-19 pandemic, so please check with the SBTi before submitting. 

The baseline year emissions inventory must be verifiable, representative of the businesses typical greenhouse gas profile, and have sufficient forward-looking ambition to make meaningful reductions consistent with reaching net-zero by 2050.

Select a target reduction pathway

The SBTi provides a number of target reduction pathways that you can use to set your SBT. These pathways are based on the latest climate science and are aligned with the goal of limiting global warming to 1.5°C.

Target setting methods for scope 1 and 2 emissions:

  • Cross-sector absolute reduction method: Businesses reduce their emissions by a consistent and equal amount each year. For baselines set in 2020 or earlier, emissions must be reduced by at least 4.2% annually. For baselines set later than 2020, emissions must be reduced by at least 4.2% by 2030. For scope 3 emissions, a minimum linear annual reduction of 2.5% is allowed (aligned with well below 2°C), with the same adjustments depending on the baseline year.
  • Sector-specific intensity convergence method: Businesses reduce their emissions relative to a specific business metric, such as production output. This pathway assumes that all businesses in a sector will eventually converge on the same emissions intensity by 2050. There are specific global emissions scenarios that inform the pathway for each sector.
  • Renewable electricity target: Businesses may choose to set a scope 2 target on the procurement of renewable electricity, instead of a percentage reduction. Renewable electricity targets must be in line with procuring 80% renewable electricity by 2025 and 100% by 2030.

Target setting methods for scope 3 emissions:

  • Scope 3 physical and economic intensity reduction methods: Businesses reduce their emissions by a minimum of 7% year-on-year for both methods, which must not result in an increase in baseline emissions. Economic intensity targets are set using greenhouse gas emissions per Value Added (GEVA) (tCO2e/£ value added).

In simpler terms, businesses can choose to set targets to reduce their scope 1 and 2 emissions by a certain percentage each year, or by reducing their emissions intensity relative to a specific business metric, such as production output.

Businesses can also choose to set a target to procure a certain percentage of renewable electricity by a certain date.

For scope 3 emissions, businesses can also choose to set targets to reduce their emissions intensity or to reduce their emissions by a certain percentage each year.

Step 3: Submitting for Validation

Once you have developed your SBT, you must submit it to the SBTi for validation.

Gather the necessary information about your SBT, including the target boundary, base-year emissions, target pathway, and proposed reduction targets.

Download and complete the appropriate forms. If you are an SME, you can use the streamlined submission route and complete the online form for both near-term and net-zero targets. If you are not an SME, you will need to download and complete the four forms:

  1. Corporate near-term target submission form
  2. SBTi Net-Zero target submission Form Part I
  3. SBTi Net-Zero target Submission Form Part 2
  4. Net-zero target setting tool

Submit your SBT and forms to the SBTi. You can do this using the online booking system on the SBTi website.

Wait for the SBTi’s decision. The SBTi’s team of technical experts will review your SBT and provide you with a decision and in-depth feedback.

If your SBT is validated, it will be published on the SBTi website.

Step 4: Validation & Approval

The SBTi reviews submitted targets to assess whether they align with scientific requirements. This process includes:

  • Evaluating the target’s ambition level and its contribution to global climate goals.
  • Checking that the target is consistent with the latest climate science.
  • Ensuring that the target covers all relevant emissions sources.
  • Verifying that the target is achievable and measurable.

If the submitted target meets the SBTi’s criteria, it is approved and recognized as a science-based target. The business can then publicly announce its approved target and start implementing measures to achieve it. 

The SBTi’s target validation process typically takes 30-60 business days, depending on the complexity of the target and the businesses responsiveness to the SBTi’s requests for information. 

Step 5: Implementing your Science Based Target

Once the target is approved, the business must develop a strategy and action plan to achieve it. This plan should identify the specific actions that the business will take to reduce its emissions. 

This involves implementing measures to reduce emissions, establishing milestones, and continuously monitoring progress. 

Businesses that have committed to setting science-based targets must also commit to publicly reporting their carbon footprint annually. This can be done through an annual report, sustainability report, or other public disclosure.

Implementation of SBTs requires input from everyone. It is important to engage with all employees and stakeholders in the process and consider environmental training and upskilling where required.

It’s also important to communicate your SBTs to your customers and suppliers so that they can support you in achieving them.

If you would like support setting science-based targets for your business, our consultants can help!