Science Based Targets: Part Two, Staying on (Science Based) Target

April 8, 2019 | Insights

Clients often ask whether they will need to collect data for all 15 scope three categories. The short answer is no.

Anthesis consultants Kaylee Shalett and Curtis Harnanan draw from collective experience in developing science based targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and share what they have learned.

Anthesis has had the privilege to work with over 20 companies from a variety of sectors globally to develop their science based targets.

In the prior installment of this series, Part 1: Laying the Right Foundation, we began by sharing the four key learnings for laying a foundation in a successful approach. We continue here by sharing the next four key lessons to ensure successful progress in developing your science based targets.

Don’t sweat the small stuff

Clients often ask whether they will need to collect data for all 15 scope three categories. The short answer is no. You can prioritise efforts in a few steps:

  • Identify which of the 15 categories are relevant to your business via a screening exercise
  • Quickly develop a high-level directional estimate of your relevant scope three emissions using spend data and Environmentally Extended Input-Output analysis (EEIO) to understand the relative contributions of each. The most significant contributors are material to your business and will require deeper analysis with more accurate data
  • Gather the data necessary to accurately quantify and more fully analyse material scope three categories.

EEIO analysis is adequate for categories deemed less material, but if you already have data collected for these categories, then you should use it. Some businesses may develop their scope three footprinting solely on EEIO analysis, but this is not an option if your business wants a robust target that will result in meaningful reductions.

While the topic is science-based, the work itself should be viewed as more art than science. Data precision is not the ultimate pathway forward but making sure that your data is pointing the in the right direction should be.

Select your approach carefully

The Science Based Targets Initiative currently provides 3 different approaches for developing your science based target and guidance for each. However, deciding on an appropriate approach for your business early in the process is important. Not all approaches may be applicable and depending on your business, only one might be suitable.

For example, the Sectoral Decarbonization Approach may be most relevant if your business is firmly within one if the specific sectors in the tool (such as transport or industries like pulp and paper, chemicals, aluminum, iron and steel or cement).

When in doubt, keep it simple by using the absolute contraction approach, at greater than a 1.67% year-on-year reduction to be at the minimum for 2°C.

Validation should not be a show stopper

You can still set a reduction target, fully aligned with climate science and the criteria of the science based targets initiative, even without official validation.

While the decision to validate your target will be guided by your business’ priorities, electing to forego validation should not detract from efforts to set science based targets and implement actions to mitigate your greenhouse gas emissions. A few clients in the financial and insurance sectors have already developed targets without validation and are fully committed to the necessary actions to achieving these targets.

The science based targets initiative does not allow the use of offsets as a means of achieving targets, so creative thinking is crucial to your strategy.

Be creative

When it comes to achieving reductions against your science based targets, there is no silver bullet. Scope three categories – 1 (Purchased Goods & Services), 10 (Processing of Sold Products) and 11 (Use of Sold Products) – may require an array of initiatives to achieve required reductions. The science based targets initiative does not allow the use of offsets as a means of achieving targets, so creative thinking is crucial to your strategy.

If you follow these lessons, you can experience the following benefits of a successful target setting process:

  • It is an excellent exercise for elevating the sustainability team within your organisation.
  • It helps to gain buy-in on a new science based target that will dovetail into an ambitious corporate strategy.
  • It results in an opportunity to build a “green team” from the people that attend the target setting workshops.
  • It can be a great way to weave together what were previously independent activities within your company, such as supply chain engagement, existing emission reduction programs and sustainable procurement.
  • Your business’s various activities can live under the umbrella of your science based targets and serve as an actionable corporate sustainability strategy.

In the next installment in our series we will share technical lessons learned to help you “get under the hood” of your target setting process.

To learn more about science based targets, please refer to our page for SBT Essential Resources.

Curtis Harnanan

About the authors

Curtis Harnanan is a principal consultant at Anthesis with 20 years of experience, which spans developing science based targets, enterprise and full value chain carbon footprinting, management and reporting, corporate sustainability strategy, benchmarking and reporting, organisational and product sustainability standards, hotspot analysis and policy analysis.

Kaylee Sharlett

Kaylee Shalett is a senior consultant at Anthesis and specialises in sustainability strategy, climate resilience planning, greenhouse gas accounting and analysis, sustainability reporting, and setting science-based targets. She has developed greenhouse gas inventories for over 35 clients with expertise in emissions quantification protocols and best practices for calculating scope one, two and three emissions, leveraging her experience to assist companies in setting their science based targets.

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