Sketching out the Case for Science-Based Targets

Last week we hosted an event, Making the Case for Science-Based Targets and we asked attendees for their top tips on how to make the case for science-based targets:

  1. Identify where the demand is coming from: engage with stakeholders to understand and present the position of your shareholders, customers, suppliers and staff.
  2. Make it a legacy issue: help your leadership team realise that by putting your business on a credible path to reduce emissions they will make a unique and positive impact that will outlive their tenure.
  3. Explain how it’s different: explaining how previous carbon reduction targets were set and the requirements for a science-based target will help decision makers to understand the credibility and transparency that the approach provides.
  4. Identify the risks that a science-based target can help to mitigate and the benefits that can be realised: such as the security of your supply chain, the reputation of your brand, keeping pace with competitors, delivering cost efficiencies and driving innovation.
  5. Show how the target can be achieved: present your strategy which describes how the things that you’re already doing will contribute to achieving your target and explains how new initiatives will deliver further value to your business.

What are the top challenges you face in making the business case for setting science-based targets?

  1. Overcoming inertia and scepticism: there is often a lack of urgency for setting a science-based target and a risk that influential individuals who don’t buy into this approach can block it.
  2. Meeting the requirements for a science-based target: it can be challenging to interpret and apply the requirements and methodologies to set a science-based target, and to explain the added value of getting your target approved by the Science-Based Targets Initiative.
  3. Reliability of your data: using accurate data that you trust to create a baseline and to calculate emission trajectories.
  4. Understanding scope 3 emissions: knowing where to start to calculate Scope 3 emissions, dealing with supply chain complexity and difficulty in setting targets on value chain where you do not have direct control
  5. Perceived cost barriers: understanding how to achieve ambitious emission reductions, the costs involved and the benefits to your business.

From why to how

You will notice that many of the solutions presented here rely on explaining why a science-based target is the right course of action. If we focus too heavily on the why, then there’s a risk that we get stuck discussing whether we should or should not set a science-based target.

If we change the conversation to how a science-based target can be achieved, then we can spend time considering the direction it should take, how far it should go and the positive impact this will have on your business and the environment. By expanding the number of solutions you’re putting forward you can make the ‘do nothing’ option feel like a step backwards.

As sustainability practitioners we need to focus our time and effort on making the case for how a science-based target will be delivered. If we do this effectively then the case for why becomes self-evident.

Sketching out Science-Based Targets

During the event we had an illustrator capturing the main insights from the discussion. Take a look at the results and see the highlights shared by our brilliant speakers; Richard Tarboton, Carbon Credentials, Vicky Murray, Pukka Herbs, Jeremy Leggett,  SolarCentury & SolarAid, Christina Downend, Tesco, see below:


Download our Guide to Setting Science-Based Targets to find out more