What is the Science-Based Targets Initiative (SBTi)?

What is the Science-Based Targets Initiative, otherwise known as SBTi – and how does it help companies rescue emissions or fight against climate change?

7 min

Carbon Footprint 👣


7 min


September 23, 2022

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Carbon accounting and sustainability are growing in popularity, and therefore – it’s important that companies figure out how to reduce their carbon emissions accordingly with accuracy, and that’s where the science-based targets initiative, or SBTi comes into play.

What is the SBTi initiative, and is it successful in helping companies to reduce their carbon footprint and fight against climate change?

How did the SBTi start?

The Science-Based Targets Initiative started back in 2014 with nothing more than a desire to motivate others to mitigate climate change through the help of science. Intrinsic desire to reduce emissions is key to following through with emission reduction goals, but science is the part of the equation that helps companies make educated decisions and implement successful actions that will lead to their climate change goals. 

In less than a decade, SBTi has gone from a concept to a sought-after global program – acquiring more than 3,000 companies to partake in the SBTi program, including 1,000 additional commitments to the net-zero movement. The Science-Based Targets Initiative now has the ability to set new goals in place following their unprecedented growth – such as advocating for net-zero and making science-based targets the new normal for companies around the world. 

What is the main goal of the SBTi?

In a nutshell, the Science Based Targets initiative, known as SBTi for short – encourages numerous actions to improve the global stance on climate change by providing companies with science-based criteria to assist them in reducing the excessive emissions. The SBTi is partnered with several other programs, such as the CDP, United Nations Global Compact, and the World Resources Institute. 

The SBTi thrives on utilizing scientific data to demonstrate the dire need for companies around the world to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions and fight against climate change. In other words, the SBTi strives to be a mentor to organizations around the globe through the use of their scientific discoveries to create personalized plans for companies to reduce their environmental impact and transition to a world where net-zero will be the new normal. 

The main goal of the SBTi is to help businesses around the world reduce their emissions through the collection and evaluation of scientific data, and to promote the idea that emissions can be reduced most successfully with the help of science. However, the SBTi has several other goals in mind – such as cultivating an experienced team of experts to harvest new scientific data on a constant basis, provide updated targets as often as possible in conjunction with these new scientific findings, and be a leader in the movement to ensure the globe does not surpass a global surface temperature of 1.5°C. 

How does applying to be a part of the SBTi work?

Applying to partake in the Science-Based Targets Initiative works in a five step process. 

1. Commit

First, a business or company seeking to reduce their emissions through the SBTi should write and send a letter illustrating their commitment to using science-based targets to improve their carbon footprint. This step isn’t necessary if the company is a small or medium sized enterprise, or any company with less than five hundred employees. 

A company can register online to send their letter of commitment. Advocating and delineating their commitment to other imperative climate change movements, like net-zero emissions, can help a company be accepted to the SBTi. 

While your company waits to be accepted by the SBTi, development for a new emission reduction plan should be made in accordance with the science based criteria provided by the SBTi.

2. Develop

All companies should develop new emission reduction plans in line with the science based criteria that is available on the Science-Based Targets Initiative website. The SBTi offers personalized assistance to help all companies achieve their environmental goals, as it is imperative that individual businesses strive to meet the requirements provided by their sector.

Companies have two years to submit their targets in line with the SBTi after signing their letter of intent. 

3. Submit

After developing their targets, companies should apply for their new plans to be validated. The SBTi motivates all applying for approval to review the resources provided by the SBTi prudently to avoid any potential delays in approval. 

In fact, the Science-Based Targets Initiative offers a wide range of documents and services to ensure that your validation process goes smoothly. These include the opportunity to submit a second validation if the first one is not approved, new validation submissions if the new goals are updated to meet the expectations of the SBTi, submissions for financial institutions, and submissions based around achieving net-zero emissions. 

Once a company has submitted their new targets to the SBTi, a team of specialists review the submission to ensure the goals are in line with the science-based criteria of the Science-Based-Targets Initiative. Regardless if the response is an acceptance or rejection, the SBTi team will provide in-depth feedback following submission of approval.  

4. Communicate

Accountability is one of the most imperative components of achieving any goal. Therefore, it is crucial that companies then share their new environmental goals based on the scientific criteria provided by the SBTi with both consumers and stakeholders immediately. 

If the new targets are approved by the SBTi, they will be published on the Science-Based Targets Intiative’s official website, as well as on all of their partner pages for maximum visibility and accountability. However, this can only be done if a company ensures that their targets are announced to the public within the first six months following the initial approval. If a company doesn’t make their targets known, then the SBTi will have to review them again. 

5. Disclose

All companies that are approved by the SBTi are required to delineate their progress to the public. The initial targets should be monitored and reviewed annually at minimum to ensure continuous improvement. Assistance on how to report these targets can include providing the public with annual sustainability reports or sharing the progress on your company’s website. 

What are the benefits of  joining the SBTi?

The overarching benefit to applying to be a part of the SBTi is to have constant access to the latest science-based data that can allow a company to set emissions based on tangible, numerical evidence. 

However, it is becoming clear that there are more benefits to using science-based targets than just improving environmental circumstances. One of these benefits, which is vital to business success, is improved brand reputation. Investors, customers, and employees alike are beginning to recognize the importance of contributing to companies that don’t cause the environment any more harm than many already have. As sustainability grows in popularity, companies partaking in initiatives like the SBTi will continue to grow more valuable – as companies that strive to reduce carbon emissions using science can clearly delineate their commitment in the fight against climate change. 

Joining the SBTi allows for new business opportunities, as investors are beginning to use sustainability and environmental efforts as a prerequisite to investing in any company. While satisfied customers are compulsory for consistent revenue, a business cannot grow without the help of investors – which adds financial value to companies that decide to apply to the SBTi. 

In any business, staying ahead of the game is essential to success – and by joining the SBTi, a company can be sure that they stay up-to-date with the latest regulations implemented to reduce emissions. This will become pivotal, as the U.S. gets more serious about climate change. Instead of scrambling to adjust business practices to adhere to new environmental regulations, companies a part of the SBTi will always be one step ahead. 

Those who join the Science-Based Targets Initiative may also notice that their company will save money in places they didn’t expect to – as tailoring business models to reduce emissions can usually increase efficiency, seek renewable energy sources, which ultimately reduce business costs. 

Perhaps the most exhilarating benefit of joining the SBTi is the opportunity for innovation. Establishing emission reduction tactics through the use of scientific data requires creativity on a new level – and inventiveness can provoke novel ideas and business tactics that a company may not have thought of otherwise if they weren’t reducing emissions through the SBTi. 

Clearly, there are only good things to come for those who choose to apply for the Science-Based Targets Initiative – but what and who else does the SBTi strive to help? 

What are other movements that the SBTi advocates for?

The SBTi doesn’t want to just help businesses reduce their emissions, but the SBTi strives to bring awareness to other movements that will help improve global emissions – one of the biggest ones being the initiative to achieve net zero emissions by 2050. 

In fact, the SBTi has started the first global standard to provide companies around the world with a comprehensive guide on how to achieve net-zero emissions, called the Corporate Net-Zero Standard. 

The Science-Based Targets Initiative values their collaborations, as they believe that governments and businesses must work together in order to achieve their respective goals. This is because while a business may want to implement certain tactics to reduce emissions, it could very well be that a local government doesn’t permit a business to take those actions without further approval. In short, the SBTi believes that decarbonization is more likely when various sectors work together harmoniously. 

The SBTi recognizes that they aren’t the only global influence that can help to spread the importance of decarbonization around the world. Therefore, the SBTi takes pride in their partnerships with the UNGC, the WWF Climate Business Network, and many other organizations dedicated to raising awareness regarding climate change. 

Has the SBTi been successful?

Given the SBTi started only eight years ago, it has been extremely successful – even separate from its short existence. For instance, last calendar year – the SBTi experienced a time of incredible growth and motivated other corporations to take part in their global decarbonization movement, which resulted in them recruiting twice the amount of companies committing to their scientific based targets than usual. 

This means that over one hundred new companies were applying to partake in the SBTi monthly. While the SBTi recognizes this amazing accomplishment – they want to do even more, by encouraging all the companies currently enrolled with the SBTi to encourage their associated companies to join the SBTi as well. 

This shows how the SBTi isn’t willing to pull the brakes on their already monumental success, and illustrates their clear dedication to reducing emissions around the world. It’s difficult enough to figure out how to run a business, and these days – companies need to find ways to be financially successful while also pertaining to sustainability.

If you’re looking for an accreditation to demonstrate your company’s commitment to decreasing carbon emissions, as well as open several other doors that could result in multi various benefits for your business – the Science-Based Targets Initiative may be the stepping stone to your company going both green, and big. 

What about Greenly? 

If reading this article about the Science-Based Targets Initiative in the U.S. has made you interested in reducing your carbon emission to further fight against climate change – Greenly can help you!

Greenly can help you make an environmental change for the better, starting with a carbon footprint assessment to know how much carbon emissions your company produces.

Click here to learn more about Greenly and how we can help you reduce your carbon footprint. 

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Stephanie Safdie

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