What are Science Based Targets (SBTi)?
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April 10, 2023
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What are Science Based Targets (SBTi)?

SBTs are emissions reduction targets that are set by companies in alignment with the goals of Paris Agreement.


  • Science-based targets show organizations how much and how quickly they need to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions to prevent the worst effects of climate change.
  • Over 1000 organizations worldwide are leading the zero-carbon transformation by setting emissions reduction targets grounded in climate science through the SBTi.

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

The Science Based Targets Initiative (SBTi) is a worldwide program that empowers businesses to establish and achieve ambitious emissions reduction targets based on the most recent climate science. 

This initiative is a partnership between CDP, the United Nations Global Compact, World Resources Institute (WRI), and the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF). It is one of the commitments of the We Mean Business Coalition

The main objective of the SBTi is to assure companies worldwide that their climate targets are contributing to the global economy's efforts to cut emissions by 50% by 2030 and achieve net-zero emissions before 2050.

How SBTs help companies align with global climate goals

SBTs are emissions reduction targets that are set by companies in alignment with the latest climate science and the goals of the Paris Agreement. 

To adopt SBTs, companies must first measure their greenhouse gas emissions across their entire value chain, including their own operations, supply chain, and use of products. 

They must then set ambitious emissions reduction targets that are consistent with the latest climate science and the Paris Agreement. 

How to set a science-based target?

  • Commit: submit a letter establishing your intent to set a science-based target
  • Develop: work on an emissions reduction target in line with the SBTi’s criteria
  • Submit: present your target to the SBTi for official validation
  • Communicate: announce your target and inform your stakeholders
  • Disclose: report company-wide emissions and track target progress annually

SBTi’s Impact to Date

According to a recent report by the Science Based Targets initiative, over 2000+ companies worldwide have committed to adopting SBTs, with more than 1000 approved science-based targets.

The impact of SBTs can be significant. According to the same report, On average, between 2015 and 2020, companies with approved targets reduced their combined scope 1 and 2 emissions by 29%, in comparison to a 25% reduction between 2015 and 2019.

Read more about Scope 1, 2, and 3 Emissions here.

Furthermore, studies have shown that companies that adopt SBTs tend to outperform their peers in terms of financial performance. This is likely due to the fact that SBTs require companies to take a long-term, strategic approach to emissions reduction, which can lead to more efficient operations, reduced costs, and increased innovation.

Understanding the Targets

Targets are science-based pathways for companies and financial institutions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. They are reviewed and validated by the SBTi. Organizations with targets are identified with temperature alignments and dates in the SBTi dashboard’s 'Target' columns. 

Commitments: According to the new policy of compliance as of January 2023, organizations that commit to developing targets and submitting them for validation within 24 months are marked as 'committed' in the dashboard. If they fail to submit targets within this timeframe, they will be identified as 'Commitment removed’.

Near-term targets outline how organizations will reduce emissions in the next 5-10 years and are required for net-zero targets. These targets galvanize the action required for significant emissions reductions to be achieved by 2030. Near-term targets are also a requirement for companies wishing to set net-zero targets.

Long-term targets indicate emission reductions needed to achieve net zero by 2050 (2040 for the power sector) under the Corporate Net-Zero Standard. Long-term targets are developed by companies wishing to set net-zero targets under the Corporate Net-Zero Standard.

Temperature alignment indicates a company's alignment with Paris Agreement goals and is identified as 1.5°C, well-below 2°C, and 2°C in the dashboard. It indicates the degree of global temperature increase compared to preindustrial levels companies are aligned with, based on their scope 1 and 2 targets.

SBTi’s 2021-2025 Strategy

Increasing ambition

In 2018, 2°C scenarios were the backbone of the SBTi’s framework. Unfortunately, of the 220+ companies with approved targets, only a handful was consistent with limiting warming to 1.5°C. To improve the framework, SBTi launched the Business Ambition for 1.5°C campaign in May 2019. With support from a wide range of business-facing organizations and backed by 28 early movers in 1.5°C-alignment within the corporate sector, SBTi’s targets have become more ambitious. 

Best-in-class technical governance

As the scope of the framework as well as the companies setting the SBTi targets increases, the organization plans to evolve the technical governance and decision-making processes to adhere to best-in-class models used by sustainability standards. The new standards board will operate with independence from the SBTi secretariat, and that will be the ultimate decision-making body for key technical components of our certification framework.

A robust and agile secretariat

To improve the timeframe for target validation significantly, it is imperative for SBTi to strengthen the key components of the organization and infrastructure. Today, the SBTi assesses company targets within 30 business days or 60 business days for financial institutions. The level of approval has also significantly increased, from below 60% in 2018 to over 90% today. 


These companies have set a variety of SBTs, including reducing emissions intensity (emissions per unit of production) by a certain percentage, achieving absolute emissions reductions by a specific year, and transitioning to 100% renewable energy.

Science Based Targets provide companies with a clear and credible pathway towards reducing their carbon footprint in a way that is consistent with the latest climate science and the goals of the Paris Agreement. Adopting SBTs can help companies to enhance their reputation, engage stakeholders, reduce risks, and drive financial performance while contributing to the global effort to mitigate climate change.