Kickstarting your net-zero journey

11th Aug 2022

Climate change is no longer a distant threat – it is wreaking havoc on our planet and its impacts are inescapable. From the deadly floods in Seoul to the record-smashing heat waves across the world causing Europe’s most severe drought in decades, severe crop damage in North Africa, and wildfires in many regions, the consequences of climate change are worsening with every fraction of a degree that temperatures rise. It is endangering lives and ecosystems everywhere.

If we are to limit global temperature rise to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels and stand a chance of preserving life as we know it, global greenhouse gas emissions must be slashed. According to the IPCC Special Report on 1.5°C, we must reach net-zero by around 2050

While rapidly closing, the window of opportunity for meaningful climate action remains open. With great power and potential to get us back on track, the private sector must take the lead. Corporate climate action is key in sending market signals for countries to enhance climate policy. Ambitious corporate and government action have the potential to reinforce one another to create a positive feedback loop — or Ambition Loop — that helps mainstream climate policy and increase investments toward a zero-carbon future. The more companies adopt science-based targets and reduce emissions in line with climate science, the faster we will see others follow suit and the closer we will be to aligning with a 1.5°C pathway, as set out in the Paris Agreement.

To keep this goal in reach, companies must halve their emissions by 2030, achieving deep decarbonization of at least 90% by 2050 at the latest. The SBTi’s Net-Zero Standard gives them a clear route to achieving it.

What is the Net-Zero Standard?

Since the release of the IPCC Special Report, there has been an uptick in the adoption of net-zero pledges, which now cover more than 90% of the global economy. However, before the launch of the SBTi’s Net-Zero Standard in October 2021, a robust, common definition of what net-zero meant for companies did not exist. This undermined the value of these pledges, contributing to skepticism and accusations of greenwashing against companies that made them.

To tackle this problem and establish a common understanding of net-zero, the SBTi developed the world’s first science-based standard for setting corporate net-zero targets: The Net-Zero Standard. It provides credible and achievable guidance for companies to reach net-zero by 2050. By requiring companies to set both near- and long-term targets, it ensures companies are backing their long term plans with short term actions and that their emissions reductions are consistently in line with climate science.

The Standard’s comprehensive scope gives business leaders confidence that their decarbonization plans are trustworthy, robust and that they are contributing to a more consistent and transparent net-zero landscape.

E-learning course on the Net-Zero Standard

So, how should companies wanting to set net-zero targets get started? After submitting a commitment letter signaling your intent, you have 24 months to submit your targets. You would then follow the SBTi-recommended 5-step approach to set your targets.

In addition to the SBTi’s range of resources to support you through this process, the new, free 20-minute, interactive e-learning course developed by the UN Global Compact and SBTi is a helpful starting point. This practical course dives into the relevance of net-zero for the private sector, walks through the sections of the Net-Zero Standard, highlights key tools and resources available to corporations, and provides hands-on examples of existing corporate net-zero targets.

By completing the course, you will learn about different mitigation pathways, what steps you need to take to set your near- and long-term targets, where to find sector-specific guidance, and how to update and communicate your targets to stakeholders.

Since its launch in June 2022, more than 5,000 professionals from companies around the world have completed the initial English language version of the training - with translations in Spanish, French, Portuguese and Chinese to come later this year. Describing the course, one participant said:

“This is a very complete and quick introduction guide to the Net-Zero Standard. Easy to follow and digest. In my opinion, it has everything that is needed to start the target-setting process.”

If you are new to the concept of science-based targets, we recommend that you first explore the introductory course on Setting Science-Based Targets.

You can also benefit from dozens more free sustainability courses and learning plans for companies available via the UN Global Compact Academy.