Many of the world’s leading companies recognize the need to set targets to reduce climate-warming emissions. Through an initiative developed by WRI and its partners, more than 300 companies have made a public commitment to set a science-based greenhouse gas reduction target and more than 80 of these companies have had their targets validated.

The Challenge

Companies are responsible for a significant share of global greenhouse gas emissions and have an important role to play in keeping global warming to the internationally-recognized target of well below 2 degrees C (3.6 degrees F) to avoid the most severe impacts of climate change. While corporate target-setting on greenhouse gas emissions has become standard practice in the past decade, most companies – lacking stakeholder pressure and methodological guidance – have set emissions reduction targets that only commit them to incremental change, falling short of what science requires to avoid dangerous levels of warming.

WRI's Role

Through the Greenhouse Gas Protocol, WRI has worked on carbon accounting and target-setting for nearly 20 years. In 2015, WRI partnered with CDP, WWF and the UN Global Compact to launch the Science Based Targets initiative to mobilize companies to set more ambitious corporate emissions reduction targets that are aligned with the latest climate science. The initiative aims to make science-based target-setting standard practice by 2020 by providing tools and guidance, rooting target-setting in existing performance measurement initiatives and building momentum through a commitment campaign. WRI is helping to manage the initiative, develop target-setting methods and implementation guidance, and review science-based targets (SBTs) against criteria that represent best practice.

Since starting this initiative, WRI has also worked with companies to take SBTs beyond greenhouse gas emissions. WRI worked with Mars, for example, on a WRI working paper, “From Doing Better to Doing Enough: Anchoring Corporate Sustainability Targets in Science,” investigating science-based target-setting related to climate, land and water use. This work informed Mars’ Sustainable in a Generation plan.

The Outcome

As of October 2017, more than 320 companies have committed publicly to set SBTs for their operations, and more than 80 of their targets have already been submitted and approved by the initiative. These 320 companies together emit the equivalent of more than 750 million tons of carbon dioxide annually, approximately the annual greenhouse gas emissions of Canada. These companies are committing to SBTs to save money, manage risk, drive innovation, strengthen investor confidence and bolster competitive advantage. As more corporate peers, investors and advocacy groups press for SBTs, this momentum can help make science-based target-setting an expected business practice.