13 Jun 23

Getting started with Science-based targets for nature

Getting started with Science-based targets for natureThe Science Based Targets Network has introduced the world's first science-based targets for nature. This development establishes a significant standard, driving corporate actions towards ambitious and quantifiable action on nature.

As the business landscape undergoes a transformation, it becomes necessary to understand the significance of this new guidance. When should businesses embark on their journey? What does the process entail? This comprehensive article aims to be a resource, covering everything you need to know.

What is Science Based Targets Initiative?

At the forefront of the Science Based Targets Network stands the Science Based Targets Initiative (SBTi), a partnership between organisations including CDP, the United Nations Global Compact, World Resources Institute (WRI), and the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF).

The SBTi plays a central role in defining and promoting best practice in emissions reductions and net-zero targets in line with climate science. As companies will starting setting science-based targets for nature, the SBTi provides technical assistance and expert resources. Through the expertise of its team, the SBTi provides independent assessment and validation of targets.

The SBTi played a decisive role as the lead partner in the Business Ambition for 1.5°C campaign, a global coalition of UN agencies, business leaders, and industry pioneers. This initiative encouraged companies worldwide to establish net-zero science-based targets aligned with a future limited to 1.5°C of warming.

What are the Science Based Targets?

Science-based targets provide a clearly defined pathway for companies to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, helping prevent the worst impacts of climate change and future-proof business growth.

These targets are considered 'science-based' when they align with the latest insights from climate science, representing the necessary measures to achieve the objectives outlined in the Paris Agreement. This includes limiting global warming to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels and diligently pursuing endeavours to restrict warming to 1.5°C.

What is the Science Based Targets Network?

The Science Based Targets Network (SBTN) is a collaborative alliance of global non-profits and mission-driven organisations dedicated to equipping companies and cities with the necessary guidance to establish science-based targets for all of Earth's systems. By providing clear direction, the SBTN empowers companies to address their impacts and dependencies on nature throughout their value chains, establishing a well-defined pathway towards sustainability.

Building on the momentum generated by the Science Based Targets Initiative (SBTi), the SBTN comprises over 45 organisations, including those already involved in the SBTi, diligently developing methods and resources for science-based targets for nature in the corporate sphere, and science-based targets for both climate and nature in urban environments.

What are the Science Based Targets for Nature?

The Science Based Targets for Nature aim to guide companies in addressing their environmental impacts across freshwater, land, biodiversity, ocean, and climate, and provide a framework for measurable and comparable corporate action on nature conservation.

Building upon the established foundation of climate targets set by more than 2,600 companies through the Science Based Targets Initiative, these nature-focused targets offer guidance on how organizations can contribute to the realization of an equitable, net-zero, and nature-positive future. This will form a key part of progress towards Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and global policy milestones.

The 5 step process companies need to follow

The Science Based Targets for Nature include a 5-step process for putting science into action. As part of this first release the Science Based Targets Network has developed detailed technical guidance for the first 3 steps of the process with additional guidance on the final steps (Act and Track) coming in 2024.

1. Assess

In the assessment step, companies evaluate their value chain-wide impacts on nature and identify potential environmental impacts and locations for target setting. This involves using sector-level materiality screening tools and assessing impacts throughout the value chain.

2. Prioritise

The prioritisation step involves identifying locations and activities that require target setting and prioritising areas for action based on overall impact and feasibility.

3. Set targets

In the target-setting step, companies collect baseline data for priority targets and locations. Targets are then set for freshwater, land, and climate, with biodiversity partially covered within freshwater and land targets. The targets are expected to be disclosed publicly, and the validation process for targets is currently being piloted.

4. Act

The fourth step, "Act," involves taking action based on science-based targets. While the specific methodologies and tools for this step are still in development, companies can follow the SBTN Action Framework, which includes actions such as avoidance, reduction, restoration, regeneration, and transformation.

5. Track

The final step is to track progress, adapt strategies if needed, and report progress publicly. High-level measurement guidance is available for companies starting now, with detailed Measurement, Reporting, and Verification (MRV) guidance to be provided in 2024.

Science Based Targets for Nature in relation to other Frameworks & Standards

The Science Based Targets Network strives to establish a streamlined process for companies to set targets that drive progress towards multiple sustainability objectives simultaneously. To facilitate this integration, SBTN offers insights into the connections between its methods and other widely recognised sustainability frameworks, standards, and regulations. This approach enables companies to understand how science-based targets for nature support and complement other related frameworks.

While science-based targets for nature generally surpass the ambition of current policy frameworks, in cases where exceptions arise, SBTN encourages companies to adopt more rigorous targets aligned with the science-based indicators for freshwater and land and submit them for validation.

SBTN's documentation includes references to other relevant organisations such as the Science Based Targets Initiative (SBTi), the Taskforce on Nature-Related Financial Disclosure (TNFD), the Accountability Framework Initiative (AFi), the Alliance for Water Stewardship (AWS), the Natural Capital Protocol (NCP), the Biological Diversity Protocol (BDP), the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI), CDP, Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), United Nations (UN), International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO), ESRS/EFRAG, and emerging EU requirements.

It's important to note that SBTN methods complement but do not supersede the guidance and requirements provided by SBTi, particularly concerning the assessment of greenhouse gas impacts across all material value chain activities.

Science Based Targets for Nature in relation to Biodiversity

The Science Based Targets Network aims to combat biodiversity loss by ensuring companies contribute to the protection, restoration, and sustainable use of natural ecosystems. The current release of science-based targets for nature directly addresses key drivers of biodiversity loss.

In Step 1, companies assess their environmental impacts against five drivers identified by the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, using biodiversity data to contextualize them.

Step 2 integrates biodiversity into spatial prioritisation for target setting, focusing on urgent conservation areas.

Step 3 methods tackle biodiversity pressures. While species-specific targets are not included yet, the land and freshwater methods address dominant drivers like land use change, habitat loss, and overexploitation of freshwater resources.

How software can help

Greenstone provides enterprise-level software solutions to enable companies to automatically and accurately measure their carbon emissions and report their Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) performance. Greenstone’s solutions are built to evolve with a company’s ESG reporting journey, to support them both now and in the future as a company collects more in-depth data year on year.

As a CDP Gold Accredited Software Partner, and an active supporter of the SBTi, Greenstone is championing this challenge and continues to encourage the adoption of science-based targets.

Greenstone’s award-winning Enterprise sustainability reporting software enables companies to acquire and manage the data needed to set a Science-Based Target. In addition, Greenstone’s client services team provide clients with guidance on committing to and setting SBTs for their organisations. Once set, clients can use Greenstone’s sustainability reporting software to manage and track progress against targets over time.

To learn more about Greenstone’s award-winning sustainability software please reach out to our team or request a demo.