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All Eyes on SBTi, The Renowned Verifier of Corporate Climate Targets

The Science Based Targets Initiative (SBTi) is a joint unit made up of the CDP (formerly the Carbon Disclosure Project), the United Nations Global Compact, World Resources Institute (WRI), and the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF). Founded in 2015, its goal is to mobilise companies to set ambitious greenhouse gas (GHG) emission reduction targets in line with scientific evidence to limit global warming to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels, as outlined in the Paris Agreement.

industrial pollution highlighting greenhouse gasses for corporate businesses

Who are SBTi and what are science-based targets?

SBTi provides a framework and guidance for companies to set science-based targets (SBTs) that align with the latest climate science and contribute to achieving long-term climate goals. These targets are considered "science-based" when they are consistent with what the latest climate science indicates is necessary to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement.

Companies that commit to setting science-based targets undergo a rigorous assessment process conducted by SBTi to ensure that their targets meet the necessary criteria. Once approved, these targets are publicly recognised by SBTi, signalling the company's commitment to taking meaningful action on climate change.

By encouraging companies to adopt science-based targets, SBTi aims to drive ambitious action on climate change mitigation, enhance corporate climate leadership, and contribute to the global transition to a low-carbon economy.

What’s happened - and why does it matter?

There have been various tweaks to SBTi’s approach in the last few years, including updated guidance to their Corporate Net Zero Standard and, more recently, asking businesses to provide more information on the target validation process. They also outlined a more lenient path for SMEs to take in certain sectors.

But it’s the latest announcement around plans to allow for the extension of environmental attribute certificates (EACs) that’s caused furore. EACs could include emissions reduction credits, for example, to help address Scope 3 emissions which are notoriously difficult to measure and manage.

It’s been widely reported that, following this announcement, SBTi staff have been revolting against management, calling for their resignation.

Carbon offsetting is an extremely emotive topic and, for many at SBTi, they are very wary about this move undermining SBTi’s Standard Operating Procedures, becoming more lenient on corporate emissions reduction targets and, ultimately, running the risk of facilitating greenwashing.

So, what now?

The board at SBTi have responded to the backlash by clarifying that “any use of EACs for Scope 3 will be informed by evidence”. It has committed to issue a discussion paper in July about the potential changes, before progressing to update the standards. The board also confirmed that any changes to the standard will be done according to the organisation’s Standard Operating Procedure.

Ultimately, over the next few months, SBTi will be looking for a fair compromise that appeases the Standard Operating Procedure by which they operate, and their staff vehemently abide by, and provides realistic, achievable guidelines to businesses setting emissions reduction targets.

It will be a difficult task to fully convince all stakeholders but their guiding principle will undoubtedly be to follow the science and continue to provide expert guidance to businesses seeking to get serious about their future commitments around environmental performance.


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