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How science-based targets can help you meet net-zero goals

28th November 2023

With the window of opportunity to avoid dangerous climate change getting ever shorter, indications are that governments could take an increasingly strong regulatory position on greenhouse gas emissions. Taking decisive action to reduce energy and resource consumption not only helps to mitigate emissions but also leads to direct operational cost savings.

Setting ambitious sustainability goals can also unlock innovation within a business, and many companies have already set such goals, achieving significant cost savings and product improvements as a result.

What are science-based targets, and why are they important?

Science-based targets are emissions reduction targets showing companies and financial institutions how much, and how quickly they need to reduce their greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. The targets are set according to the 2015 Paris Agreement, which limits global warming to well below 2°C, preferably to 1.5°C, compared to pre-industrial levels and aims to build a resilient, zero-emissions economy grounded in science.

The SBTi (Science Based-Targets Initiative) is a partnership between the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP), the United Nations Global Compact, World Resources Institute (WRI) and the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF). The collaborative group promotes and provides support in the best practices for reducing emissions and net-zero targets.

Reaping reputational benefits

Companies that adopt science-based targets as part of their sustainability strategy can benefit from a positive reputation. As the physical impacts of climate change become more pronounced, the public is increasingly critical of companies that do not take action to reduce emissions.

Moreover, as businesses take progressive leadership positions on climate issues, companies that lag behind may appear unreasonable and regressive. In fact, there is a growing trend of companies that have set science-based targets, encouraging their major suppliers to do the same to reduce their indirect impacts.

Corporate net zero strategy

Science-based targets are designed to provide a clear direction of travel for businesses, offering insights into important market trends shaped by the low-carbon transition. This clarity can shift the focus of a business towards developing innovative solutions and new opportunities.

Science-based targets enable companies to consider the two realities of the need for short-term incremental change while enabling long-term, transformational change. They cover the value chain and a company’s operations and are an essential part of a corporate net-zero strategy.

How can TRA members get started?

TRA members need to be aware that setting science-based targets (SBTs) requires commitment and support from stakeholders.

While setting science-based targets is a significant undertaking, it is an essential step for companies who are serious about reducing their emissions and contributing to a more sustainable future. There are a few steps for members to consider:

1. Before you commit to setting science-based targets, it is essential to understand why they are important and what the 2015 Paris Agreement is. This will help you get your company on board with the idea of setting targets.

2. Once your company is on board, make a public commitment to setting science-based targets by signing the SBTi Business Commitment Letter. This is a declaration of your support for the SBTi and your commitment to setting targets that are aligned with the latest climate science.

3. Calculate your baseline emissions by gathering data on all of your greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. This includes direct emissions from your operations and indirect emissions from your supply chain and energy use. You can use our blog post to understand the difference between Scope 1, 2, and 3 emissions. Once you have calculated your baseline emissions, you can start to identify opportunities to reduce them.

4. Set ambitious but achievable targets for reducing your emissions. Your targets should be aligned with the SBTi criteria. To submit your targets to the SBTi for validation, you must complete a target validation form. The SBTi will review your targets and provide feedback. If your targets are approved, they will be listed on the SBTi website.

5. Once your targets have been validated, communicate them to your stakeholders. This will help to raise awareness of your climate action goals and motivate others to take action.

6. Share your target progress with your stakeholders regularly. This will demonstrate your commitment to climate action and transparency. You can disclose your target progress in your annual sustainability report, on your website, or in a dedicated disclosure report.

By following these steps, Trussed Rafter Association members can set ambitious but achievable targets to help them build a more sustainable future for the industry.

Furthermore, setting science-based targets can also help your business enhance its reputation and build trust with customers, stakeholders, and investors because greater transparency means firms are publicly disclosing the actions they are taking to help progress.

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