Carbon levels in the atmosphere reached a new record – 419 parts per million in April 2021 (NOAA) – and the number is expected to continue to rise, according to the annual bulletin of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), agency of the United Nations (UN) specializing in climate science.
Despite the belief that the Covid-19 pandemic would reduce CO2 emissions due to transport outages and lockdown decrees, gas emissions remained largely unaffected. That's because efforts to contain the virus's contagion have only reduced human mobility, but not the overall consumption of fossil energy.
If carbon emission levels continue at an unbridled pace, irreversible damage to the environment and to the life of species could be unleashed as a result of the hostile increase in the planet's temperature. Faced with the imminent threat, companies large and small join the Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi) daily to do their part to reverse the scenario.
What is the SBTi?
The Science Based Targets initiative, or SBTi for short, is an initiative that offers methods and tools for companies of different sizes to establish targets for reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. These goals are in line with what the most current climate science indicates for us to achieve the Paris Agreement goals, limiting the increase in global temperature to well below 2°C and doing everything possible to keep it at 1.5°C.
Setting a GHG emission reduction target
Climate science-based goals are developed in partnership with the SBT initiative through five steps:
#1 Commitment: companies are responsible for sending a commitment letter to SBTi indicating their commitment to establishing a scientifically-based target for reducing their GHG emissions.
#2 Development: the SBTi makes available on its website, free of charge, several resources that explain how companies should prepare their goals. After sending the commitment letter (step #1), companies have up to 24 months (two years) to develop, validate and publish their goal.
#3 Submission: companies submit their goals to the SBTi team for official validation.
#4 Communication: once approved, the goals of each company are published in the Companies Taking Action section on the official website of the SBT initiative and on the websites of the partner organizations. Companies also receive a welcome kit with tips on how to inform stakeholders about the established goal.
#5 Disclosure: after official validation and receipt of the welcome kit, companies must annually disclose their GHG emissions and their progress, in order to assess the steps to reach the established target.
Establishing science-based GHG emission reduction targets brings greater security to companies, while at the same time demonstrating a concrete commitment in terms of sustainability to consumers, employees, suppliers and investors. It is a protection for the future not only of the business as a whole, but of the planet we inhabit.
By relying on the evaluation of the SBTi team, the companies have the support of technical specialists, who provide detailed feedback regarding the ambition of the companies' goals and the achievement or not of the initiative's criteria.
Setting science-based targets for reducing GHG emissions resulted in six benefits, identified in a survey conducted with 185 executives from companies committed to the SBT initiative.
- Brand reputation
About 79% of leaders considered strengthening brand reputation as one of the most significant benefits for their companies when committing to the SBT initiative.
As consumers and employees become more aware of the effects their choices have on the environment, sustainability grows as a trend and increases the visibility of companies that engage in such practices.
- Investor confidence
Pressure from investors, customers and regulators for companies to adopt social and environmental practices grows exponentially year after year, according to the MSCI report.
Shareholders have become increasingly interested in the environmental policies of the companies in which they invest as a way to keep their investments qualified in the future. Proof of this is that BlackRock, the world's largest asset manager, already encourages shareholder resolutions on climate commitments.
In the survey, 52 percent of executives say their targets based on the scientific goals of the SBT initiative have increased investor confidence in their business.
- Resilience against future regulations
As more and more governments seek to implement the Paris Agreement, companies tend to adapt to new ways of conducting their manufacturing, transport and logistics flows in favor of the environment and a more sustainable economy.
More than a third (35%) of survey respondents reported that setting scientific goals helped them to have greater resilience against future regulations at the national and international levels.
- Greater possibility for innovation
Faced with the transition to a low-carbon or zero-carbon economy, companies that align their strategies to the SBT initiative keep a wide range of opportunities open.
Nearly two-thirds (63%) of leaders argued that setting goals with the SBTi has driven innovation in their businesses, and 50% maintain the expectation that half of their products and services will be low-carbon by 2030.
- Greater economy
There are those who say that transforming a business into a sustainable model requires high costs. But the companies that established GHG emission reduction targets based on the SBTi criteria have proven that the idea is wrong, as 29% of the executives who joined the initiative point to savings in their businesses' financial statements.
By setting scientific goals with a team of technical experts, companies are working to keep their operations efficient and resilient in a future with more expensive and scarce resources.
- Competitive advantage
Precursors of the transition to a low-carbon economy, more than half (55%) of respondents said that committing to the scientific goals of the SBT initiative gave them a competitive advantage.
With reduced uncertainty, strengthened investor confidence and higher profits, companies striving for success in the low-carbon economy are ahead of their competitors.