Latest Blog Post: Science-Based Targets Initiative, by Irene Ma

December 1st –

GreenBuzz Thematic Event: Science-Based Targets Initiative

Despite the call for companies and financial institutions to get on track of the global race for a net zero world, understanding around the necessary transformation is still unclear. An issue shared by all stakeholders is a missing common language to discuss proximate and long-term goals as well as tools to measure and compare progress. And this is where the Science-Based Targets initiative (SBTi) steps in.

Every level of media makes it unavoidable to miss: people want and need sustainability. And as stated clearly at the WWF Zurich hosted GreenBuzz Zurich’s Thematic Event about the SBTi on 27th of October 2022, being sustainable is daily business now. The global issue of anthropogenically accelerated climate change has been around for at least the 1990s, but in the past decades the urgency and public involvement has rapidly increased. In fact, it has become so popular that businesses face financial loss and reputational damage if they do not respond to their consumers’ and investors’ demands to take responsibility. Moreover, the demands are becoming increasingly legally binding. Yet, for many, the definition of sustainability is still blurry.

Many institutions have the same problem in the face of tackling environmental issues within their capability: what is their role in climate change? The baseline unknowns are their current carbon footprint, what it should ideally be, and how to get there most effectively. Green-house gas (GHG) emissions have many sources and are generally hard to track; to reduce them poses complications on an entirely different level. The SBTi is a partnership between CDP, the UN Global Compact, World Resources Institute (WRI), and the WWF, which was launched to remove the obstacles of paralyzing load of information and to offer much welcomed guidance to the private sector in taking urgent climate action, as Lene Petersen, Senior Manager Climate and Business at WWF Switzerland, explains passionately. Some of the panelists are confident about the SBTi, or some form of it, to even become legally binding in Switzerland. Yannic Steffan, Head of Sustainability at Valora, disagrees slightly and is more hesitant about foreseeing its integration into Swiss law. Nonetheless, he sees the value of science backed principles which will lead us on the path to our climate goals.

Although the opinions were diverse, all invited panelists of the event agreed on the fact that the SBTi facilitated the discourse about an initiation of corporate climate action. The requirements to join the SBTi pathway are partly sector-based and clearly established which gives way for companies to start their sustainability management. There are several sustainability standards and guidelines available but the SBTi convinces with targets based on the most recent scientific findings on the issues regarding carbon emissions. The process of setting up a SBT is straight-forward, and the crucial work of defining the methods is done by the SBTi, as Lene explains. Antonio Carrillo, SBTi Technical Advisor, Global Head Climate and Energy at Holcim, highly committed to the cause, highlights the companies’ initial task at hand: data collection to understand the current carbon footprint. But Laurent Vandepaer, Sustainability Performance Lead at ON Running, can only agree that already pulling together all the necessary data to set a target is a challenge within a company since the way information has been stored never had emissions targets in mind. Still, ‘the SBTi is a must’, as Antonio continues, and the accompanying amount of preparation and hard work is worth going through on any account.

Before collecting all the required data to submit to the controlling body of the SBTi, convincing the leadership to commit to climate action adds an element of complexity. Thanks to the guidance and science-based evidence, conversations have been at least more efficient, both Antonio and Laurent remember well. After receiving managerial consent and having collected all the data, targets are submitted and in the best case approved by the SBTi. Despite the fact, that ‘the difficult part of implementation is yet to come for many SBT committers’, as Lene adds with both a playful nudge and seriousness, setting approved scientifically backed targets marks a solid beginning of a dedicated journey towards a net zero future worth fighting for.

With the SBTi seeing a rapid incline in participation, the sustainability roadmap of an increasing body of companies has become more certain and guided. And the panelists and audience agree on the conclusion: It is crucial, that after having set up their goals as a first step, companies must aim for their tailor-made targets despite the difficult road ahead. Because, in the end, intent is good, but action is better. In fact, action is necessary.

#GreenBuzz #SBTi #Corporateclimateaction

This article was written by Irene Ma.

Read more about this event, including pictures and presentations, here.