SBTi for ambitious climate action


SBTi Overview

The SBTi (Science Based Targets initiative) was founded in 2014 as a collaboration between CDP (Carbon Disclosure Project), the United Nations Global Compact, WRI (World Resources Institute), WWF (the World Wide Fund for Nature), and the We Mean Business Coalition. The SBTi’s goal is to enable companies worldwide to do what climate science requires of the global economy: to halve emissions by 2030, and achieve net-zero before 2050. 

SBTi develops criteria and provides tools and guidance to enable businesses and financial institutions to set GHG emissions reduction targets in line with what science tells us is needed to keep global heating below 1.5°C. The SBTi’s theory of change is based on the diffusion of innovation theory. It works with the assumption that 20% of businesses in a particular territory or sector equals critical mass, so the goals are to reach this 20% threshold by 2025. This means: 

  • $20 trillion of the global economy covered by approved 1.5°C targets. 
  • 5GT of corporate emissions covered with science-based targets or commitments. 
  • 10,000 companies commit to or set science based targets. 

The SBTi does not currently assess targets: 

  • for cities, local governments, public sector institutions, or nonprofit organizations.
  • for companies in the Oil&Gas sector.

The benefits of joining the SBTi:

  • It future-proofs growth
  • It saves money
  • It provides resilience against regulation
  • It boosts investor confidence
  • It spurs innovation and competitiveness
  • It demonstrates concrete sustainability commitments to increasingly-conscious consumers.
  • Companies going through the target validation process benefit from detailed feedback and support from the SBTi’s technical experts.
  • Businesses who sign the SBTi commitment letter are immediately recognized as “Committed” on SBTi website.

The process to set science-based targets

  1. It is allowed to set a science-based target in parallel with conducting a full inventory of Scope 1, 2 and 3 emissions.
  2. Submit to SBTi a letter establishing an intent to set a science-based target
  3. Develop an emissions reduction target in line with the SBTi’s criteria
  4. Present a target to the SBTi for validation
  5. SBTi announces the target on website
  6. Company informs stakeholders
  7. Company reports company-wide emissions and track target progress annually

Science-based targets

Near-term targets

Near-term targets must be aligned to the most recent criteria, where scope 1+2 targets are 1.5°C-aligned, scope 3 targets are well-below 2°C aligned and the target year must be 5-10 years from submission. All companies (apart from Forestry, Land and Agriculture, Power, and Maritime who must follow sector guidance) reduce emissions at a minimum of 4.2% annually. It can be absolute reduction or intensity convergence, depending on the sector. Companies must source renewable electricity at a rate consistent with 1.5°C scenarios 80% renewable electricity procurement by 2025 and 100% by 2030 as thresholds. 

When Scope 3 (activities outside of a company’s direct control but are related to its operations) is less than 40% of overall emissions, no Scope 3 target required, although encouraged as best practice. 

When Scope 3 is 40% or more of overall emissions, companies must set one or more emission reduction targets and/or supplier/customer engagement targets that collectively cover(s) at least 67% of total scope 3 emissions. Scope 3 target(s) must be aligned with well-below 2°C pathways and targets achieved within 5-10 years from the date the target is submitted to the SBTi for validation. 

For sector specific guidance refer to the sector specific requirements table in the SBTi Criteria and Recommendations.

Near-term targets are a prerequisite for companies wishing to set net-zero targets.

Long-term targets

Long-term targets indicate the degree of emission reductions organizations need to reach in order to achieve net-zero according to the SBTi’s Corporate Net-Zero Standard criteria. Most organizations will need to reduce emissions at least 90% to reach net-zero no later than 2050 (or 2040 for the power sector) (72% for Forestry, Land and agriculture – FLAG) in SCOPE 1, 2, 3, using 100% of renewable electricity by 2030. Long-term targets can only be set by companies that have committed to net-zero under the SBTi’s Net-Zero Standard. There are a bunch of sector specific guidelines. 

Net-zero target

Setting corporate net-zero target means:

  • reducing scope 1, 2 and 3 emissions to zero or a residual level consistent with reaching net-zero emissions at the global or sector level in eligible 1.5°C scenarios or sector pathways
  • neutralizing any residual emissions at the netzero target date and any GHG emissions released into the atmosphere thereafter.

The possible SBTi impact on the carbon credit market

SBTi stimulate neutralizing of residual emissions

According to C-11 of SBTi criteria and recommendations for near-term targets “the use of carbon credits must not be counted as emission reductions toward the progress of companies’ near-term science-based targets. Carbon credits may only be considered to be an option for neutralizing residual emissions (see Net-Zero C28) or to finance additional climate mitigation beyond their science-based emission reduction targets (see Net-Zero R9). 

According to SBTi corporate netzero standard neutralization means measures that companies take to remove carbon from the atmosphere and permanently store it to counterbalance the impact of emissions that remain unabated. The neutralization of unabated emissions applies to both the emissions reduction targets boundary and to any unabated emissions that have been excluded. Residual emissions are emissions sources that remain unabated in a specific year of a mitigation scenario. A company cannot claim to have reached net-zero until the long-term science-based target for all scopes is achieved and the company has neutralized residual emissions.

SBTi promotes beyond value chain mitigation

According to R-9 of SBTi corporate netzero standard companies should take action or make investments outside their own value chains to mitigate GHG emissions in addition to their near-term and long-term science-based targets. For example, a company could provide annual support to projects, programs and solutions providing quantifiable benefits to climate, especially those that generate additional cobenefits for people and nature. The guidance for beyond value chain mitigation is in development. You can read more about this initiative in this article.  


The number of companies in the SBTi is increasing significantly. Specific information about the participants can be obtained by clicking on the link on the official website. And at the Net-Zero target date they will need to compensate 10% of residual emissions creating demand for carbon credits. Further procedure for buying carbon credits in the form of Claims Code of Practice and Core Carbon Principles are already created.

Also it is needed to be aware of the development of Beyond value chain mitigation as a potential tool to attract investment in carbon market.

5 Russian companies have announced commitments to set near-term targets in 2019-2021 period. SBTi’s targets have not been approved.

SBTi Russia