How to Set Science-Based Targets

SBT guidance and essential resources for businesses

Welcome to our dedicated
Science-Based Targets Library

Here you’ll find a host of resources to help guide you through the process of setting and achieving a science-based target (SBT). Join a growing list of companies by reducing your greenhouse gas (GHG) footprint, in-line with climate science.

Resources To help you to understand: 
  • What are SBTs and how do you set one?
  • SBT requirements
  • How to evaluate methodologies
  • How to prioritize and implement GHG emission reduction activities.
  • The tool Anthesis uses for data collection in the supply chain
  • How data visualization can inform decision-making & enable reporting.

What are Science-Based Targets?   

Science-based targets (SBTs) are greenhouse gas reduction goals set by businesses. They are defined as “science-based” when they align with the scale of reductions required to keep global temperature increases well-below 2°C compared to pre-industrial temperaturesSBTs provide businesses with pathways to sustainable transformational change to accelerate the transition to a low carbon economy.  

The business case for companies to set targets is clear. The Science-based Target Initiative outlined four incentives for companies to set SBTs:

Drive innovation
Reduce regulatory uncertainty
Strengthen investor confidence and credibility
Improve profitability and competitiveness

5 Steps to setting a Science Based Target

Anthesis supports organisations to develop and set their SBTs.

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How to set Science-Based Targets

Setting a SBT involves developing emissions-reduction targets consistent with the world’s carbon mitigation requirements to keep the globe below 2°C warming and align with Paris Agreement emission reductions forecasts. The process begins by submitting a commitment letter that, once received, recognises the company as ‘committed’ to aligning emissions reduction targets to 1.5°C. The company is then added to the SBT website and partner CDP and We Mean Business sites. Companies then have 24 months to complete the remaining steps.

Then, companies must develop targets in line with the science based target criteria. Following the successful development of SBTs, companies must submit these, where they will be reviewed and validated against the SBT criteria.

Once approved, the SBT will announce the company as part of those ‘companies taking action’. The company must then make public its commitment within 6 months by announcing its targets and informing stakeholders.

Setting SBTs involves tracking and reporting on this target over time, including disclosures through CDP, annual reports, sustainability reports and the company website.

Understanding your emissions

Setting SBTs begins with the identification of company emissions, considering the three scopes of emissions defined by the GHG Protocol Corporate Standard: Scope 1, 2 and 3.

Scope 1 and 2 emissions are ‘owned’ by your company. Scope 1 emissions constitute direct emissions from within the organisation, such as natural gas and fleet vehicle usage. Scope 2 emissions relate to indirect emissions from the production of energy eventually used by the organisation, such as electricity purchased. As scope 1 and 2 emissions can be directly controlled, setting appropriate targets and committing to them is relatively straightforward.

What about Scope 3 Targets?

Scope 3 emissions refer to a company’s emissions within their supply chain. Of companies who have set science-based targets, over 90% of them address scope 3 reductions. These scope 3 reductions can be met via absolute reductions or from a large portion of the company’s suppliers setting their own targets. The real work of meeting these targets is around shortening the cycle of supplier capacity-building, moving suppliers quickly from understanding to action on climate.


Anthesis Resources to Support Your Journey

These resources are intended to help you establish a foundational understanding of how to set science based targets, how to assess SBT tools and methodologies, and how to respond to SBTi criteria udpates.

Resources library:

  • Three webinars exploring different topics within science-based targets
  • A podcast episode covering the network effects of COP25, ClimateWeek NYC  latest trends and insights for organizations pursuing SBTs
  • A client example outlining the process of supporting Target Corporation to set a Scope 3 target
  • An overview of our SBT data visualization tool
  • Our top six SBT blogs covering a range of insights

Contact us to find out how we can support you


Webinar 1 | Science-Based Targets: Reducing carbon across the value chain 

View this webinar to learn how companies can evaluate and meet SBTs across value chains.

This webinar will help you:

  • Evaluate the various methodologies and typical requirements in order to set SBTs
  • Think about how to prioritize and implement GHG emissions reduction activities
  • Understand the tools available for data collection in the supply chain, and assess how data visualization can inform decision-making & enable reporting

Webinar 2 | A deeper dive into science-based targets

View this webinar for a more in-depth look at SBTs and next steps after starting the process.

This webinar will help you:

  • Consider the tools needed to assess SBTs
  • Understand the methodologies Anthesis uses to help clients evaluate and set SBTs

Webinar 3 | SBTi’s new criteria and requirements for climate leadership

View this webinar to learn about SBTI’s version 4.0 target setting criteria in effect from October 2019.

This webinar will help you:

  • Understand how SBTi’s updated criteria affect requirements for science-based targets and scope 3 emissions management
  • Understand how to determine whether your current initiatives are aligned with Good (2°C), Better (well below 2°C) or Best (1.5°C).


Podcast Episode | Activating Sustainability: Science-based Targets

The fall of 2019 provided a windfall of global commitments to address climate change. Listen to expert Josh Whitney discuss the network effects of COP25, ClimateWeek NYC and more on “Activating Sustainability”  the Anthesis Podcast. It covers the latest trends and insights for corporate leaders and a progress update on science-based targets and businesses committing to the 1.5 degree pledge.

To work toward achieving our science-based target, we’ve partnered with expert Anthesis to ensure we could meet the rigorous requirements of an SBTi-approved goal for Scope 3 emissions.

Former VP of Corporate Responsibility
Target Corporation

Client Example | Supporting Target Corporation to set a Scope 3 SBT

Anthesis was selected as the technical partner to help Target set a science-based target for their Scope 3 value chain emissions.

  • Analytics: A comprehensive scope 3 footprint assessment as well as target and initiative modeling.
  • Solution: Helped set an ambitious scope 3 absolute reduction and supplier engagement science-based target for Target’s upstream value chain.
  • Implementation: Supporting and driving the implementation of Target’s scope 3 target. This involves coordinating supplier engagement and developing training programs, as well as identifying, managing and accounting for value chain emissions reductions from suppliers.

Our SBT Tool

Live demo of our SBT Data Visualization Tool

Our online password-protected data visualization tool allows you to create and forecast GHG emissions for your business and test the impact of reduction strategies towards achieving SBTs. Anthesis uses Tableau to provide clients with cost-effective, quick-to-deliver data visualization and analytics tools enabling us to dive deeper into the data, and manipulate it for more answers. Tableau’s business-intelligent analytical approach excels at presenting modeling and scenario analysis projects like SBTs. 

Explore the SBT Dashboard here

Click across the tabs at the top of the dashboard and then click within the dashboard to adjust inputs and see the resulting visualizations.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why do Science-Based Targets matter?

In short, they are necessary for limiting GHG emissions which contribute to global warming. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), if GHG emissions are left unabated, we are on a pathway to increase global warming 3.7°C to 4.8°C.

Without keeping global temperature increases to well-below 2°C, the effects will be catastrophic with a host of impacts including: exposure to extreme heat, melting of arctic ice and permafrost, increase in sea-levels, loss of plant, insect and animal species, changes to a variety of ecosystems and reduction in food supplies. These will occur in addition to some of the impacts already in play: extreme weather events, flooding and forest fires. While well-below 2°C is the minimum, minimising global temperature rise to 1.5°C is necessary. A 0.5°C makes a tremendous difference to the degree of catastrophic impacts.

What are the key challenges when adopting science-based targets?

The main challenges typically occur during quantification of baseline emissions for setting targets, followed by identifying and implementing appropriate actions to meet the targets. By design, science-based targets are highly-ambitious and require aggressive GHG emission reductions within a relatively short timeframe (5 to 15 years). Conversely the targets and reduction measures extend well-beyond time horizons of a typical business planning cycle.

The required reductions are not only within the physical operational boundaries of a business, but also within their value chains. At best, value chain GHG emissions are difficult to quantify or quantify accurately, and often rely on estimations to provide a complete footprint. So for some businesses, gathering and analyzing available data (particularly within their value chains) can be time and resource intensive.

Ambitious targets within aggressive timeframes require a thorough plan that includes a suite of emission reduction measures modelled alongside emissions growth projected over 2-3 decades to provide some level of confidence in final decision-making and internal adoption. Often the most formidable challenge is the “unknown” and attempting to determine its implications to a business. Sometimes the unknown could be devastating (e.g., global pandemic) or an opportunity to innovate (e.g., technological advancement). Despite the challenges, many businesses have not only successfully set science-based targets but are already seeing the business benefits of them.

What are the business benefits of adopting science-based targets?

Science-based targets have enumerable business benefits. The Science-Based Targets Initiative (SBTi) conducted a survey of business executives who have identified the following business benefits: 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. SBTs are more effective than incremental emissions reduction targets at:

  • Building business resilience and increasing competitiveness.
  • Driving innovation and transforming business practices.
  • Building credibility and reputation.
  • Influencing and preparing for shifts in public policy.

science based targets business benefits

What happens if science-based targets are not met?

Setting a science-based target is largely a voluntary exercise. If a company misses the mark with their set targets, the most immediate risk may be reputational. There are no fines nor other regulatory consequences of not meeting a target. Over the long term, in addition to the missed business benefits (listed above), companies may  eventually lose market share, stakeholder and shareholder confidence and ultimately forego their ability to be competitive or grow. Businesses need to report their progress annually to ensure that they have sufficient insight on whether or not they are on the right trajectory to meeting their targets. Undoubtedly there are several influencing factors that could derail a company’s progress against its targets, but with consistent monitoring, measuring, making necessary course-corrections and annual reporting, companies embed the necessary rigour to successfully achieve their targets.

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