WHAT IS THE SCIENCE BASED TARGETS INITIATIVE (SBTI)?
Science-based targets provide a clearly-defined pathway for companies to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, helping prevent the worst impacts of climate change and future-proof business growth.
Targets are considered ‘science-based’ if they are in line with what the latest climate science deems necessary to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement – limiting global warming to well-below 2°C above pre-industrial levels and pursuing efforts to limit warming to 1.5°C.
Reducing GHG emissions in line with climate science is good for the planet and for companies.
Science-based target setting makes business sense – it future-proofs growth, saves money, provides resilience against regulation, boosts investor confidence, spurs innovation and competitiveness – while also demonstrating concrete sustainability commitments to increasingly-conscious consumers.
Companies going through the target validation process benefit from detailed feedback and support from the SBTi’s technical experts. Businesses who sign the SBTi commitment letter are immediately recognized as “Committed” on our website, as well as the CDP and We Mean Business website as well as the UN Global Compact website if committing to the highest level of commitment ambition, the Business Ambition for 1.5°C campaign.
The Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi) mobilizes the private sector to take urgent climate action.
By guiding companies in science-based target setting, we enable them to tackle global warming while seizing the benefits and boosting their competitiveness in the transition to a zero-carbon economy.
We do this by:
- Defining and promoting best practice in science-based target setting.
- Providing technical assistance and expert resources to companies who set science-based targets in line with the latest climate science.
- Bringing together a team of experts to provide companies with independent assessment and validation of targets.
- Leading the Business Ambition for 1.5°C campaign, mobilizing companies to set science-based targets in line with a 1.5°C future
We know that governments and business must act together. Widespread and ambitious science-based target setting gives governments the clarity and confidence to take bolder action.
Our vision is for science-based target setting to become the new normal, creating a thriving economy in harmony with the natural world that sustains us all.
The Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi) is a partnership between CDP, World Resources Institute (WRI), the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), and the United Nations Global Compact (UN Global Compact). Setting science-based targets via the SBTi is also one of the We Mean Business Coalition commitments.
Companies that commit to the SBTi automatically count towards the We Mean Business campaign (though they may opt out if they choose).
The SBTi leads the Business Ambition for 1.5°C campaign, calling for business leaders to set emissions reduction targets in line with a 1.5°C future. Business Ambition for 1.5°C is a partner in the Race to Zero campaign. Therefore, companies that commit to the Business Ambition for 1.5°C campaign are automatically recognized as part of the Race to Zero campaign as well.
The ACT initiative complements the SBTi. By supporting companies in the process of setting science-based targets, the SBTi helps them define a clear sense of direction to be in line with a decarbonization pathway. By supporting companies to achieve the low carbon transition and monitoring their climate action, ACT helps them implement that direction, and enhance the credibility of their climate commitments.
The Business Ambition for 1.5°C campaign is an urgent call-to-action campaign led by the SBTi, UN Global Compact and the We Mean Business Coalition calling for companies to set emissions reduction targets in line with limiting global warming to 1.5C.
Companies can commit to Business Ambition for 1.5°C by signing the commitment letter in step 1 of the target-setting process. By doing so, they will be recognized on the SBTi and UN Global Compact websites as having committed to the most ambitious science-based targets.
Committing to the Business Ambition for 1.5°C campaign is the highest ambition commitment offered through the SBTi, and we encourage all companies to choose this commitment level when committing to the SBTi.
There are two options companies can choose from when committing to Business Ambition for 1.5°C. To fulfill the commitment, companies can either set 1.5°C-aligned targets across scope 1, 2, and 3 emissions, or set targets in line with current SBTi criteria and commit to set a net-zero target according to SBTi forthcoming criteria.
Please see specific FAQs related to the Business Ambition for 1.5°C campaign here.
We appreciate your interest in engaging with and promoting the Science Based Targets initiative. For the time being, we are not formally collaborating with consultancies, non-profit organizations, schools, students, researchers, or service providers. Feel free to subscribe to our mailing list here to receive our newsletter and other updates, and connect with us on Twitter and LinkedIn. Additionally, we invite you to use and promote the free resources and tools available on our website.
HOW IT WORKS
We encourage companies from all sectors and of all company sizes to join the movement and commit to setting a science-based target. We acknowledge differences between business areas, which is why we offer sector-specific guidance.
The SBTi is especially keen to welcome companies in the highest-emitting sectors, who play a crucial role in ensuring the transition to a zero-carbon economy.
The exception is oil and gas companies. Companies in this sector can make a commitment to setting science-based targets, but their targets cannot yet be officially approved. We are currently developing a methodology for target-setting in this sector.
We also welcome targets from Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs), which can validate their ambition and become part of the initiative by sending their Target Setting Letter to [email protected]., a streamlined process designed specifically for SMEs.
The SBTi reserves the right to perform due diligence before and after accepting new commitments and while reviewing submitted targets.
The SBTi does not currently assess targets for cities, local governments, public sector institutions, educational institutions or non-profit organizations. However, we encourage these stakeholders to consider science-based target setting methods on their own. Cities can register their interest in setting targets through the Science Based Targets Network (SBTN).
Follow this five-step process to set science-based targets and demonstrate your climate leadership by cutting your company's greenhouse gas emissions:
- Commit: submit a letter establishing your intent to set a science-based target
- Develop: work on an emissions reduction target in line with the SBTi’s criteria
- Submit: present your target to the SBTi for a complete validation
- Communicate: announce your target and inform your stakeholders
- Disclose: report company-wide emissions and track target progress annually
There is a separate streamlined pathway for Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises (SMEs). Learn more here.
After sending a commitment letter, companies have 24 months to submit their target and have it validated and published by the SBTi.
Targets submitted to the SBTi first go through an initial screening to ensure basic criteria are met. Once a target submission passes the initial screening, companies will be asked to sign the target validation service contract. Once signed, the SBTi will assess the submitted targets and communicate its decision within 30 business days of contract execution. Please note that the validation service closes each year from December into January, and therefore halts validation activities during this time.
If targets are not approved, companies should review the feedback and resubmit targets as soon as they are able. The standard validation service includes a second assessment for no additional charge within six months of the first assessment.
The target validation process costs USD 4950 (plus applicable VAT) which includes up to two target assessments (one partial and one complete or two complete validations), or USD 1,000 (+ applicable VAT) for SMEs.
Subsequent resubmissions cost USD 2490 (plus applicable VAT). Resubmissions include one target assessment.
Certain companies may be eligible to request a fee waiver if they need – find out if your company is eligible to request a fee waiver.
We strongly encourage companies to follow the step-by-step process and commit to set a target before submitting a target for validation.
By committing to set science-based targets before submitting targets for validation, companies are immediately recognized as “committed to setting a science-based target” on our website, as well as on our partners’ websites at We Mean Business and CDP. Companies participating in the UN Global Compact will also be recognized on their website.
The exception is Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises (SMEs), who can bypass the commitment stage and immediately submit a target for approval through our streamlined SME target-setting route.
If targets have not been submitted, approved and published within 24 months of committing, companies will be removed from the SBTi website – unless specific circumstances apply. For more information, consult the SBTi’s protocol on expired commitments.
The SBTi encourages companies experiencing difficulties to get in touch with our team. We are happy to explore ways our team can provide support and help companies set a target within the deadline.
In the case of companies wishing to withdraw from the initiative, whilst strongly discouraged, we cannot prevent companies from doing so.
There will be no public announcement about companies being removed from the initiative, nor any penalties applied.
The SBTi has a streamlined route for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), defined as a non-subsidiary, independent company which employs fewer than 500 employees.
This pathway enables SMEs to bypass the initial stages of committing to set a science-based target and the standard target validation process. SMEs can immediately set a science-based target for their scope 1 and 2 emissions by choosing from one of several predefined target options. Unlike larger companies, the SBTi does not require SMEs to set targets for their scope 3 emissions; however, SMEs must commit to measure and reduce their scope 3 emissions.
The SBTi introduced this expedited option for SMEs because smaller companies often lack the resources and capabilities needed to set scope 3 targets and monitor progress against them. The SBTi’s speedy and simplified approach for SMEs balances the need for them to take account of emissions across their value chains without imposing too great a burden on them.
Like larger companies using our standard target validation route, SMEs are required to complete a recent, comprehensive greenhouse gas emissions inventory following the Greenhouse Gas Protocol Corporate Accounting and Reporting Standard and Scope 2 Guidance. They are required to publicly report their company-wide scope 1 and 2 GHG emissions inventory and progress against published targets on an annual basis.
Targets submitted through the dedicated route for SMEs will be automatically approved and posted to the SBTi website, pending due diligence review and payment. Companies will be sent a communications welcome pack and will be able to use the SBTi logo on their website and in company communications.
Yes. Companies can set targets using the SBTi's Corporate Net-Zero Standard - the world's first Standard for science-based corporate net-zero targets.
DEVELOPING A SCIENCE-BASED TARGET
We offer comprehensive guidance for companies setting science-based targets and support committed companies to understand which resources are available and appropriate for their needs.
Once companies have reviewed the relevant resources, they need to choose an appropriate approach and methodology to set their science-based target.
Companies can also browse our case studies and events (including recordings and materials) for guidance in the target-setting journey. To stay up-to-date on our latest resources, events and other developments, companies are encouraged to subscribe to our newsletter and connect with us on Twitter and LinkedIn.
For a more detailed overview of how to develop and submit your target for validation, including the guidance available, please see our Call to Action guidelines.
Currently, companies in all sectors apart from oil and gas can set science-based targets, aligned with the SBTi criteria.
Most sectors will use one of two methods for developing their science-based targets: the Absolute Contraction Approach (used by four out of five companies with approved science-based targets) or the Sectoral Decarbonization Approach (SDA).
Unless your sector is listed below, please see page three of our how-to guide to learn which methodology your company should use, according to your sector and other criteria.
For some sectors / industries, separate sector-specific methodologies, frameworks and requirements have been developed:
For some sectors, we have also published sector-specific guidance documents to help you through the process:
We encourage stakeholders to participate in the consultation processes for additional sector-specific guidance and methods:
(Please note, companies in these sectors can already set targets using our existing methods, with the exception of oil and gas)
Once companies have reviewed the relevant resources, they need to choose an appropriate approach and methodology to set their science-based target.
There are two approaches companies can use for setting a science-based target for their scope 1 and 2 emissions:
- Sector-based approach
- Absolute-based approach
Learn more about the target-setting approaches and methods: "Foundations paper".
Learn more about how to model targets for various scopes: "SBTi Corporate Manual".
Companies should not default to the target that is easiest to meet but should instead use the most ambitious decarbonization scenarios and methods that lead to the earliest reductions and the least cumulative emissions.
For a more detailed overview of how to develop and submit your target for validation, including the guidance available, please see our Call to Action guidelines.
In line with the latest climate science, companies must set targets aligned with either 1.5°C or well-below 2°C.
We strongly encourage companies to commit to the highest level of ambition by setting a 1.5°C-aligned target and committing to net-zero through the Business Ambition for 1.5°C campaign.
For companies with existing SBTs, we invite you to join the Business Ambition for 1.5°C campaign and voluntarily boost the ambition level of your current targets by completing this form and align your scopes 1 and 2 ambition, along with scope 3 where relevant, with a 1.5°C pathway. Learn more.
The Greenhouse Gas Protocol categorizes direct and indirect emissions into three broad scopes:
· Scope 1: Direct GHG emissions occur from sources that are owned or controlled by the company, for example, emissions from combustion in owned or controlled boilers, furnaces, vehicles, etc.; emissions from chemical production in owned or controlled process equipment.
· Scope 2: Indirect greenhouse gas emissions from consumption of purchased electricity, heat or steam.
· Scope 3: Other indirect emissions, such as the extraction and production of purchased materials and fuels, transport-related activities in vehicles not owned or controlled by the reporting entity, electricity-related activities (e.g. T&D losses) not covered in Scope 2, outsourced activities, waste disposal, etc.
Science-based targets must cover scopes 1 and 2. For companies whose scope 3 emissions cover more than 40% of their combined scope 1, 2 and 3 emissions, targets must cover scope 3.
Please consult the SBTi criteria for further details.
The SBTi requires that companies set targets based on emission reductions through direct action within their own boundaries or their value chains.
Offsets are only considered to be an option for companies wanting to finance additional emission reductions beyond their science-based target (SBT) or net-zero target.
Avoided emissions are also not counted towards SBTs.
Regarding insetting, further work is required to standardize the definition of insetting projects and to develop a clear accounting methodology. For these reasons, the SBTi will assess insetting projects on a case-by-case basis during the validation process and may not approve their use.
Renewable energy instruments such as renewable energy certificates (RECs) should only be used to meet reductions of scope 2 emissions using the market based approach. Please see the GHG Protocol Scope 2 Guidance for further guidance on scope 2 accounting.
All targets must cover a minimum of five years and a maximum of 15 years from the date the target is submitted to the Science Based Targets initiative.
Only targets submitted in the first half of a calendar year can include the current year toward the five-year minimum. For example, companies submitting a target by the end of June 2021 can have a target year between 2025 and 2035. Targets submitted July to December 2021 must have a target year between 2026 and 2036.
For companies that have been significantly impacted by COVID-19, the SBTi recommends selecting a base year such as 2019 instead of 2020 or 2021 when setting targets. Alternatively, companies are welcome to use a multi-year average base year approach, as described in Chapter 5 of the Greenhouse Gas Protocol Corporate Standard. As some companies have been less impacted by COVID-19 than others, the SBTi will still allow 2020 base years for target setting purposes and will allow companies to make their own determination about the appropriateness of a 2020 base year.
The SBTi also assesses ambition of the most recently reported year of emissions during the target validation stage. The SBTi similarly recommends 2019 is used for most recent year emissions when a business has been significantly impacted by COVID-19. The SBTi accepts most recent year inventories for up to two years before target submission, so 2019 most recent year emissions will be acceptable for all target submissions in 2021. In 2022, the SBTi will make an exception for acceptable most recent year inventories, allowing 2019, 2020, 2021, or 2022.
THE TARGET VALIDATION PROCESS
To submit your targets for validation, please download the target submission form or target-setting letter for SMEs and fill it out as clearly, completely, and accurately as possible. Missing, unclear, or erroneous information will result in the validation process being delayed.
Please consult the guidance before filling out the form as it will help you complete the form adequately. Once the form is completed, please send it together with any supporting documents to [email protected]
Once your submission is received, the SBTi will conduct an initial screening to determine if all necessary information is provided and to assess if the target meets a few basic criteria. After this step is complete, the SBTi will reach out with the validation service contract, which must be signed before the target validation process can begin. Please refer to section 3 of the target validation protocol for an overview of each step of the target validation process.
It is important to note that the validation service closes every year from early December to early January. To receive validation results before this closure, companies must submit targets for validation before the end of October. Each year, the earliest target decisions for targets with fully executed contracts from beginning November will be mid-January. For target submissions received on or after the first week of December, initial screenings will be conducted once the service re-opens in January.
The target validation service includes:
- Initial screening of target submission
- Up to two target assessments by a Target Validation team member*
- For each assessment, one comprehensive target validation report including recommendations to address non-compliances if applicable and a written decision within 30 business days**
- Up to 60 min of feedback conversations after each assessment
- Assistance with formulating the final wording of a target for complete validations only (if approved)
*Companies will have 6 months after the first submission is completed to submit the second submission.
**To be able to complete the assessment within 30 business days, companies must respond to any queries for further information or clarification sent by the validation team within two business days.
Companies going through the target validation process benefit from detailed feedback and support from the SBTi team.
The review process includes a thorough evaluation of each individual target by a team of experts in the field. On top of this, the initiative’s experts offer companies detailed feedback and recommendations (including one-on-one calls). Each target assessment requires that a technical expert familiarizes themself with a company’s inventory and activities to meticulously validate the submitted target against our SBTi criteria. Each reviewer’s technical recommendations are then cross-checked by other experts in the team for quality control. For more details on the Target Validation Process please refer to the SBTi Call to Action Guidelines.
The target validation fee is USD 4,950 (+ applicable VAT) or USD 1,000 (+ applicable VAT) for SMEs. This includes up to two target assessments.
Subsequent resubmissions cost USD 2490 (+ applicable VAT) each. The resubmission fee applies to companies that 1) have already submitted at least once through the paid service or 2) already have approved targets but need to update them.
After submission companies will receive a contract describing the service, deliverables and timeline. After signing the contract, companies will receive an invoice from the SBTi indicating the amount and account information to make the payment. Companies will have to pay within 30 business days from receiving the invoice.
When a target submission is received, the SBTi first conducts an initial screening for completeness and to ensure basic criteria are met, which usually takes around a week to conduct. If the submission passess the initial screening, it moves into the contracting stage. Once the validation contract is fully executed by both parties, the target validation service can begin. Target validation decisions are issued within 30 business days of contract execution if companies are able to respond to any queries during the validation within 2 business days.
The SBTi does not guarantee delivery of validation decisions beyond the time frame indicated in the target validation contract. If you are aiming to receive your target decision by a certain date, please budget appropriate time for the entire target validation process, which includes a week for the initial screening to be performed or longer if there is missing or unclear information in the submission form, and an additional few days for reviewing and signing the terms & conditions, both of which occur before the 30 business day timeframe begins. If your company will require redlines of the terms & conditions, please plan multiple weeks for this stage of the process.
It is also important to note that the validation service closes every year from early December to early January. Due to unprecedented demand, we have now received the maximum number of target submissions to be completed by end 2021. This means the deadline for receiving target results this year has now passed. As this means we will not be completing any additional target assessments in 2021, companies are encouraged to submit their targets before the end of the year using our new booking system. This enables you to book in your validation from January 2022 onwards.
The cost of the target validation service can be waived for those companies who need it and who are headquartered in developing countries and economies in transition, as defined by the United Nations Secretariat’s Department of Economic and Social Affairs. Companies must request an exemption in the target submission form to be considered for one.
This benefit is also applicable for Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) headquartered in developing countries. The fee waiving must be requested and justified by email, when sending the Target Setting Letter to [email protected]
If targets are not approved, the company will receive a private email indicating the decision. We will not publicly communicate the fact that a company's target was not approved.
Companies are encouraged to incorporate SBTi feedback and resubmit targets for validation as soon as they are able.
The target validation fee includes a second assessment for no additional charge if submitted within six months of the issuance of the first decision. Subsequent resubmissions under the target validation service cost USD 2490 (+ applicable VAT) per submission.
For more information on the target validation process, consult our Corporate Manual.
AFTER SETTING A TARGET
The SBTi safeguards all information provided by the company to assess its targets in accordance with the target validation service contract, which companies review and sign before the target validation process begins.
We publish approved targets on our Companies taking action page as well as our partner websites (We Mean Business and CDP). The target wording is agreed by the company with the SBTi before publication.
The SBTi is currently undergoing a process to track company progress against targets, and released initial results in our 2021 Progress Report. In the coming year, the SBTi will issue more specific guidance on what companies are required to report annually on a public basis to facilitate this process in the future.
Meanwhile, companies should report their company-wide GHG emissions and progress against targets through annual reports, sustainability reports, the company’s website, and/or disclosure through CDP’s annual questionnaire.
While new targets will only be accepted if they are consistent with limiting global warming to 1.5°C or well-below 2°C, existing targets in line with 2°C (which were set before the new criteria was introduced) will continue to be valid.
To ensure targets remain aligned with the most recent climate science, companies will be required to review, and if necessary revalidate, their targets every five years from the date of the original target approval, beginning in 2025. This will become mandatory in 2025.
Companies should notify the SBTi of any significant changes in growth projections and other assumptions that were used in developing the target, as well as the business or data and emissions factors used in the inventory process.
We recommend that companies report these changes publicly, where relevant. In addition, we recommend that science-based targets are recalculated, as needed, to reflect significant changes that would compromise the relevance and consistency of the targets.
The following changes should trigger a target recalculation:
· Scope 3 emissions become 40% or more of aggregated Scopes 1, 2 and 3 emissions;
· Emissions of exclusions in the inventory or target boundary change significantly;
· Significant changes in company structure and activities (e.g. acquisitions, divestitures, mergers, insourcing or outsourcing, shifts in goods or service offerings);
· Significant adjustments to the base-year inventory or changes in data to set targets such as growth projections (e.g. discovery of significant errors or a number of cumulative errors that are collectively significant)
Other significant changes to projections/assumptions used in setting the science-based targets
Companies should publicly disclose their emissions inventory and progress against their targets. Recommendations include annual reports, sustainability reports, the company’s website, and/or disclosure through CDP’s annual questionnaire. Please see our guidance on CDP disclosure for more information.
OUR NEW STRATEGY
The SBTi is making several changes to its criteria. These include:
Increasing the minimum scope 1 and 2 ambition temperature classification from well below 2°C to 1.5°C.
Increasing the minimum scope 3 ambition temperature classification from 2°C to well below 2°C.
Shortening the time-frame for meeting the temperature targets from 15 to 10 years.
The SBTi will release the V5.0 criteria version at the end of 2021, and this will come into force from 15 July 2022.
In order to reach net-zero emissions by no later than 2050, we need to halve global GHG emissions by 2030. This means we need to see emissions reductions on a massive scale in the near term - there is no time to lose. This is why 1.5°C-aligned SBTs are so important - they help to ensure companies urgently begin reducing emissions now at the pace and scale required to stand a chance of reaching net-zero by 2050 and limiting warming to 1.5°C.
We have seen significant momentum behind 1.5°C target-setting, with more then 630 companies now committed to 1.5°C through the SBTi’s Business Ambition for 1.5°C campaign.
To support more companies to set 1.5°C targets, the SBTi is adapting its resources to align to the increased level of ambition, including the criteria, target validation protocol and tool.
The SBTi is also launching resources to enable 1.5 target setting for key sectors of the economy, including for energy, cement and the built environment.
At COP26, the SBTi and campaign partners will celebrate companies that are committed to 1.5°C climate action, and showcase net-zero commitments and targets.
If you want validated targets to showcase at COP26, they must be submitted by 2 August 2021, as we expect a particularly high volume of submissions during this period.
The journey will not end at COP26 - far from it. We will be focused on driving more climate action in the coming years to help halve corporate emissions by 2030.
It is important that we update our guidance and ambition based on the latest climate science. The new strategy is being rolled out in response to increasing urgency for climate action and the success of science-based targets to date.
The recent IEA Net Zero by 2050 report was clear that we now need to step up action to avoid the worst effects of climate change.
1.5°C-aligned targets are now the most common choice for businesses representing 66% of all submissions to the SBTi in 2021. Overall, more than 640 companies from across the world have committed to the highest 1.5°C-aligned ambition through the SBTi’s Business Ambition for 1.5°C campaign since it launched in response to the IPCC Special Report on 1.5°C in June 2019. These companies represent a market capitalization of $13 trillion, just less than the GDP of China.
Companies are also demonstrating that science-based targets are attainable. Typical companies in the SBTi are reducing emissions above the 1.5°C minimum threshold.
Companies will be able to set scope 3 emission reduction targets aligned to either of the following options:
Absolute contraction in line with 1.5°C or well-below 2°C.
Sectoral Decarbonization Approach in line with 1.5°C or well-below 2°C.
Supplier Engagement Targets.
More details will be included in the new version of the criteria.
The SBTi is developing 1.5°C aligned intensity pathways for all sectors currently covered by the Sectoral Decarbonization Approach (SDA). However, companies in these sectors can already set targets using the Absolute Contraction Approach (ACA) - a one-size-fits-all method that ensures companies setting targets deliver absolute emissions reductions in line with global decarbonization pathways
This is the approach the vast majority of companies setting science-based targets choose. In fact, 80% of the targets approved by the SBTi in 2020 used the ACA method to set science-based targets, including a variety of companies in energy intensive sectors.
We have launched a pathway for the power sector, allowing electric utilities to set science-based targets aligned with 1.5°C.
The Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi) has welcomed around 30 power companies from 18 countries so far. Join them today - commit to setting a target and use our guidance to develop and submit a target for approval:
Please also refer to the Business Ambition for 1.5°C campaign FAQs. Especially if your commitment period expires before September 30 2021, consult section 6 in the FAQ.