Science based target initiative (SBTi)

Written By Sarah Diekmeyer


The Science Based Target initiative, otherwise known as SBTi, grants a set of tools for companies of the private sector by setting targets based on scientific research to align with the ambition of staying below 2 degrees of global temperature rise. These targets vary across industries. Companies go through a step-by-step process to have their targets approved by SBTi. 


What are Science based target initiatives (SBTi)?

The Science Based Target initiative, otherwise known as SBTi, grants a set of tools to support businesses in joining the climate leaders by setting targets based on scientific research to align with the ambition of staying below 2 degrees in order to prevent catastrophic change to the environment. 

The SBTi is a partnership between the United Nations Global Compact, CDP, World Resources Institute (WRI) and the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) as a way to tackle corporate climate action.Science Based Targets push and assist companies from all industries and sizes to commit to actively reduce their carbon footprint and Greenhouse Gas emissions thanks to their sector-specific pathways which are ongoingly improved. 

The SBTi objectives, as stated by the UN Environment program platform, is to “mobilize the private sector to set emissions reduction targets in line with climate science and play their part in accelerating the era-defining global effort to achieve a climate-safe future”. 


How many companies have signed up to the SBTi?


As of March 2022, more than 2000 companies in the private sector worldwide have set out to implement SBTi within their organization from financial institutions such as Mastercard to companies like Colgate.


What are science-based emissions targets?


Science-based emission targets are set to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement made at COP 21, which were made based on scientific research. These targets are to limit global temperature rise to below  2°C above pre-industrial levels and pursue efforts to limit warming to 1.5°C.

For example, Colgate-Palmolive is a company that has set ambitious SBTi. Examples of Colgate’s current SBTi-approved targets are as follows:

  • To reduce the absolute scope 1 and scope 2 greenhouse gas emissions in global operations 30% by 2025 and by 50% by 2030
  • Have all global operations use renewable energy sources by 2030.


How are SBTi calculated?


Companies must go through a step-by-step process in order to have their industry specific science based targets calculated. This process includes five steps:

  • Committing : Organization commits to Science Based Targets by submitting a letter establishing their intent 
  • Developing:  Create emission reduction targets that are in line with SBTi criteria
  • Submitting: 
  • Communicating: 
  • Disclosing: Annually report on company-wide targets to the SBTi organization. 


SBTi are calculated based on several criteria which vary based on the size and nature of the company as they vary across industries. Companies must follow the GHG Protocol Corporate Standard, Scope 2 Guidance, and Corporate Value Chain (Scope 3) Accounting and Reporting Standard. Companies must submit their targets to SBTi, which are then approved or refined in order to meet climate objectives. 

Information on sector-specific methods are currently available for many sectors. Sector specific guidelines are consistently uploaded to the sector development page on the SBTi website once it becomes available.

 More information on the specific requirements for the calculation of SBTi can be found on the official SBT website here


What is SBTi zero?


Simply put, the term “net zero” means that greenhouse gas emissions released are balanced by an equal amount being taken out of the atmosphere. SBTi has developed a Corporate Net-Zero standard which is the world’s first framework for corporations to develop targets which are consistent with limiting global temperature rise to 1.5°C. The SBTi zero standard was developed from a range of stakeholders and consultation with Expert Advisory Group to help corporations build and implement a strategy that they can use within their respective industries to meet these targets.