The whole truth and nothing but: how to accurately communicate your science-based targets

19th May 2022

Science-based targets are important for organizations in more ways than one. They not only put your business or financial institutions on a clear path to reducing emissions in line with the latest climate science - they also demonstrate that the plans are credible and realistic.

That’s why accurate communication about science-based targets and commitments is so important. It helps prevent greenwashing by ensuring transparency and accountability.

We want the corporations we work with to communicate their climate ambition and action widely in order to encourage other companies and financial institutions to join the global effort towards halving emissions this decade. But it is vital that science-based targets and commitments are communicated clearly and accurately to avoid the potential for misleading claims.

Are you a company or financial institution with a commitment or approved target? If so, take note. These dos and don’ts are essential reading to banish greenwashing and support more accurate communications.

Commitments

By signing our commitment letter, your organization has taken the first step in setting science-based targets. But you still have to do the hard work of developing your targets. Remember, at the commitment stage, the SBTi is yet to carry out any scrutiny of your emission reduction plans.

Do

  • Be clear that the SBTi is yet to approve your target. This applies if you have not yet submitted your target for validation OR if you have submitted your target but the SBTi is yet to approve it.

Don’t

  • Imply that the SBTi has approved your target. Your organization has committed to cutting emissions inline with halving emissions by 2030 and / or net-zero. Submitting your target for validation and having your target officially validated by the SBTi are the next stages.

  • Imply that your near-term commitment is inline with net-zero or a net-zero commitment. Organizations must have both near- and long-term science-based targets to be net-zero aligned.

  • Suggest that your commitment alone implies concrete steps have been taken toward near-term emissions reductions. While commitment demonstrates intent, you will still have to satisfy our rigorous criteria before your target is approved.

  • Use the SBTi logo: At this stage, your organization does not have permission to use the SBTi logo.

If your organization has also made a net-zero commitment, do be clear that you have taken the first steps towards developing a net-zero strategy and are actively working to establish long-term targets that are aligned with the SBTi’s net-zero criteria; but don’t imply that the SBTi has approved, validated or certified your net-zero target.

Targets

The validation of your science-based targets is an exciting moment in your organization’s sustainability journey. It is important to be clear when communicating your near-term targets and - if applicable - your net-zero/long-term targets.

Here’s how to make sure they are communicated correctly:

Do

  • Write out your full science-based target in communications and marketing content, or ensure this is easily accessible (e.g. by including a link or footnote).

  • Use the SBTi logo, but only in relation to your approved target. It should not be used in materials that mention net-zero if you do not have an approved net-zero target.

Don’t

  • Describe near-term targets as net-zero aligned. To be in line with a net-zero future your organization has to have its long-term targets approved by the SBTi.

  • Use these terms in connection with the SBTi, your commitment or target: carbon neutrality, carbon negativity, carbon/climate positive or any other claims that are not validated by the SBTi.

  • Suggest that offsets or beyond value chain mitigation will be counted by your organization to achieve near-term science-based targets.

  • Include any additional details that are not approved by the SBTi when communicating your target language.

  • Over-claim: avoid potentially misleading or inaccurate communications about your commitment or target by carefully fact checking your communications.

Don’t say: Our net-zero / decarbonization / abatement strategy has been validated / approved by the SBTi.

Do say: Our near-term / net-zero target has been validated by the SBTi. [link to/include target wording].

Refer to our communication guidance for organizations for further information and examples.

The climate emergency requires ambitious and global corporate decarbonization. To find out more about setting a science-based target and/or upgrading your ambition, visit our Set a Target webpage.

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