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Harun Asad's picture
Sustainability/Impact Advisor & Author Sustainability/Impact Advisory

Freelance author at Environmental Leader and former corporate sustainability manager for Con Edison.

  • Member since 2021
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  • May 28, 2021
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In just six years the Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi) appears to have become the gold standard for establishing corporate climate pledges. SBTi is a partnership between CDP (formerly the Carbon Disclosure Project), the United Nations Global Compact, World Resources Institute (WRI) and the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF).

According to the initiative’s site, SBTi:

  • Defines and promotes best practice in emissions reductions and net-zero targets in line with climate science.
  • Provides technical assistance and expert resources to companies who set science-based targets in line with the latest climate science.
  • Brings together a team of experts to provide companies with independent assessment and validation of targets.
  • The SBTi is the lead partner of the Business Ambition for 1.5°C campaign.

Due to growing pressure from a broad spectrum of stakeholders, major companies have joined SBTi, including Apple, Amazon, Walmart, Visa, AT&T and Pfizer. In total, more than 1,000 companies worldwide are partnering with SBTi to set their emissions reductions targets.

However, as the initiative is still relatively new, it does not currently validate targets for all sectors, such as oil and gas, and only a few developing countries are represented thus far. SBTi says it is working on a formula for assessing the targets of oil and gas companies.

Beyond emissions reductions targets, SBTi is also developing a global standard for net-zero business consistent with achieving a net-zero world by no later than 2050. The standard is expected to be released in late 2021 – a draft for public consultation was published in January. SBTi invites corporate leaders to join over 500 companies, representing more than US$13 trillion in market cap, in signing the Business Ambition for 1.5°C commitment.

In a progress report released earlier this year, SBTi said 338 companies with approved targets collectively cut their annual emissions by 25 per cent between 2015 and 2019 – the equivalent of the annual emissions of 78 coal-fired power plants.

“We thought it was incredibly important to have an externally validated target that was mathematically sound on reductions in the near term,” says Duncan Burt, the National Grid utility’s director for COP26, the UN climate conference due to be held in Glasgow in November, as reported in the Financial Times. Matthew Gorman, the director of carbon strategy for London’s Heathrow Airport, says the business decided to join the initiative because it offered “a useful external benchmark” of its efforts to reach net zero emissions.”

For more information, learn how SBTi works and access additional resources including FAQs.

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Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Jun 1, 2021

Is SBTi able to overcome the challenge where there is skepticism on the certifications coming from a single organization that has a financial incentive in seeing their certification become widespread and successful? Is the association with the UN sufficient to instill trust? 

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