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What is Science Based Targets (SBT) – Why you should set them and How SDS can help?

What is Science Based Targets (SBT) – Why you should set them and How SDS can help?

Science Based Targets


Science Based Targets is an initiative which sets guidelines to scientifically calculate targets for companies’ contribution to decarbonization, in line with the Paris Agreement.

Originally, this agreement set out to keep the global average temperature increase below 2°C compared to pre-industrial temperatures. However, following an updated report from the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in October 2018, the SBT initiative launched new guidelines for target-setting in line with a temperature increase below 1.5°C.

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

Reducing GHG emissions in line with climate science is will directly affect the triple bottom line – planet, people and profit.

Setting Science-Based Targets makes business sense.


SBT-setting methods can be complex and should be considered in the context of each company’s operations and value chains.  Generally, science-based target setting methods have three components:

  • Carbon budget (defining the overall amount of GHGs that can be emitted to limit warming to 1.5°C or well-below 2°C)
  • Emissions scenario (defining the magnitude and timing of emissions reductions)
  • Allocation approach (defining how the carbon budget is allocated to individual companies).

Three methods are currently available that are applicable to multiple sectors.  Companies should choose the method and target that drives the greatest emissions reductions to demonstrate sector leadership.

To calculate SBTs, companies should use a method that is based either on sector-specific decarbonization pathways (i.e. the Sectoral Decarbonization Approach) or on a percentage reduction in absolute emissions.  Intensity targets may be set for scope 1 and 2 sources. However, an intensity target should only be set if it leads to absolute reductions in line with climate science or is modelled using a sector specific decarbonization pathway that assures emissions reductions for the sector.


A set of robust criteria must be met in order for your target to be recognised as Science-based. Criteria includes:

  • Emission Boundary – define which emissions must be included (Scope1 and 2 and Scope 3 in the majority of cases; SBTis states if Scope 3 emissions account for over 40% of Total Emissions, then a minimum of two-thirds of Scope 3 must be included in any SBT )
  • Timeframe – clear definition of base and target years, including progress tracking
  • Ambition – Absolute versus intensity targets, method validation, combined scope targets
  • Scope 2 – Consideration of indirect emissions and renewable energy targets
  • Scope 3 – Clear approach to other indirect emissions throughout the value chain
  • Reporting – At least annual and reported within the public domain



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  • Brand Credibility & Reputation
    • Consumers are increasingly aware of the effects their choices have on the environment, and ethical consumption continues to grow as a hot topic therefore a company’s reputation for sustainability is of growing importance.
  • Investor Confidence
    • Investors are also increasingly interested in companies’ green credentials, looking towards a company’s environmental policies as part of their strategy for assessing future investment opportunities
  • Resilience Against Regulation
    • As milestone dates approach we can only expect to see further regulations imposed in a bid to reach emission targets. Setting science-based targets offers increased resilience against future legislation and may future-proof business models.
  • Increased Innovation
    • With the transition to a low-carbon economy underway and growing in momentum, companies that are aligning their strategies early are embracing opportunity to rethink, innovate and resultantly transform business practices.
  • Bottom Line Savings
    • Although it is often disputed that green business models are costly, studies have proven that by setting SBTs companies are actually leaner and more efficient and are building resilience against a future where resources may become increasingly scarce and expensive.
  • Competitive Edge
    • With increased innovation, reduced uncertainty, strengthened investor confidence and improved profitability, it is easy to see how those companies committed to carbon transition will stay ahead of the curve, giving themselves the best opportunity to succeed in a low carbon economy. 



At SDS we understand  how challenging it can be to set net-zero emissions targets that meet SBTi’s criteria. We work together with our clients to formulate SBT, which are ambitious yet achievable and validated by the Science-Based Targets Initiative (SBTi).

CarbonFIT, the new cloud-based platform SDS also enables clients to monitor energy usage and carbon emissions, tracking real-time data against adopted SBT.  CarbonFIT will Footprint, Improve and Track & Translate your Carbon commitments and disclosures. We will assess exactly where you are now, determine all viable improvement measures, and devise your own individual pathway to Carbon Zero.

Every company needs to take action to reduce their Carbon Footprint; we understand that this may seem like a daunting challenge.  However, with CarbonFIT and the expertise of our team of Low Carbon Consultants, we can help achieve your Net Zero plans.


SDS is supporting a range of businesses to develop science-based targets, gain validation and reduce emissions in line with ambitious targets.

We’re ready to help achieve your objectives using science-based targets.