Deborah Chu

SBTi’s Corporate Net Zero Standard: The Pawprint Take

5 min Read
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In late October of this year, the Science Based Targets Initiative released their Corporate Net Zero Standard -- the first-ever global standard for what net zero means in a business context, and how companies should go about achieving it.

I’d definitely recommend going through the document in full. If you’re a climate wonk like me with some time to spare, it’ll make your heart sing. (Tell me more, tell me more, what’s your sector’s physical intensity convergence?) But if you’re wanting to cut to the chase, here’s a quick rundown of the Net Zero Standard’s overarching aims and its roadmap to a truly net zero private sector. 

Hold up. What’s the Science Based Targets Initiative and why’s it important?

The Science Based Targets Initiative (or the SBTi to you and I) helps businesses set and validate their emissions reduction plan. Established in collaboration with the Carbon Disclosure Project, the United Nations Global Compact, World Resources Institute and the WWF, the SBTi’s mission is to galvanize climate action in the private sector and make sure they align with the ambitions of the Paris Agreement. 

There are a lot of different carbon standards out there, but Pawprint recommends signing up to the SBTi for the following reasons:

  • It follows science. SBTi’s guiding framework ensures that companies reduce their emissions in line with the 1.5 degrees Celsius climate target. 
  • It’s already been adopted by highly influential companies, including the likes of Ford, Heineken, Facebook and Amazon, to name a few.
  • From conversations our CEO has been having, we believe it is (or soon will be) seen as the most credible standard out there. This means it will likely only gain traction going forward. 

Once a company’s plan has been validated, it's published on the SBTi’s online database, so people can see who’s doing their bit for the planet. All companies must report back every year to retain their validation. 

Signing up to the SBTi is voluntary, and businesses can still set science-based targets without getting them verified. However, doing so is a great way to demonstrate commitment and accountability. 

Tightening the definition of net zero

Broadly speaking, a company achieves net zero when the amount of greenhouse gas (GHG) they’re emitting is equal to the amount they’re removing. 

The SBTi’s Net Zero Standard sets down a more specific criteria; a company cannot call itself a net zero business until its long-term, science-based target has been achieved (p. 10). This definition forces organisations to prioritise reduction over offsetting, since (under the Net Zero Standard) only 10% of total reduction can come from offsetting. 

Removals must come on top of reduction

Offsetting your emissions through removal projects must come after real emissions reduction. The Net Zero Standard explicitly spells out this requirement: 

While companies may reach a balance between emissions and removals before they reach the depth of decarbonization required to limit warming to 1.5ºC, this is a transient state on the journey to net zero emissions. Companies must reduce emissions to this level before claiming to have reached net zero. In other words, a company’s net zero target date may not come before its long-term science-based target date. (p. 37)

The Net Zero Standard also stresses that the removal must be ‘permanent’. Not all removal projects are created equal, so it’s important to hunt for high-quality solutions if you choose to go down this route.

Ready to start reducing?

Here are 5 ways businesses can reduce their scope 3 emissions without offsetting.
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Ambitious near-term targets for Scope 1 and 2 (and 3)

Setting near term, more easily achievable goals can help to create momentum and enthusiasm around the longer term, more ambitious targets.

In order to be ratified by the SBTi, near-term targets must:

  • Have a minimum ambition of 1.5°C for scopes 1 and 2.
  • Cover at least 95% of a business’ scope 1 and 2 emissions.
  • Have a minimum ambition of well-below 2°C for scope 3.

Scope 3 reporting is a must

Many standards (including the UK Government’s Environmental Reporting guidelines) don’t require companies to report on their scope 3 emissions. Scope 3 accounts for all emissions that occur up and down a company’s value chain. As such, scope 3 usually accounts for the vast majority of a business’ overall carbon footprint

By requiring all companies to measure and reduce their scope 3 emissions, the SBTi is pushing them to enact immediate and transformative change within their own companies and across sectors. At this tipping point in the climate emergency, it just makes good business sense. 

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Ready to start your business on its net zero journey? Pawprint can help. By engaging your employees in your sustainability mission, you can turbocharge your company’s climate action and help bring about a better, healthier planet for all. Book a demo with Pawprint today. 


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