The Science Based Targets Initiative

Professor Kevin Haines
February 2022

The Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi) is a “joint initiative by CDP [Carbon Disclosure Project], the UN Global Compact (UNGC), the World Resources Institute (WRI) and WWF intended to increase corporate ambition on climate action by mobilising companies to set greenhouse gas emission reduction targets consistent with the level of decarbonisation required by science to limit warming to less than 1.5ºC / 2°C compared to preindustrial temperatures.

An emissions reduction target is defined as 'science-based' if it is developed in line with the scale of reductions required to keep global warming below 2C from pre-industrial levels.


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As of July 2018, 426 companies are taking science-based climate action and 114 companies have approved science-based targets. Companies can join the SBT initiative by following four steps:

  1. Signing the Commitment letter;
  2. Developing a target;
  3. Submitting the target for validation;
  4. Announcing the target.


This is quite disappointing initiative. The targets are set by companies themselves (which relies on significant ‘in -house’ knowledge) and are not based on individualised or fine grained (independent) assessments. More so the SBTI is limited to reducing carbon emissions which, whilst important, speaks to an extremely limited range of ESG factors. There is so much more that could be done with science-based target setting for ESG and the SDGs.

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