Step 1

Assess your impacts on nature

In this first step, your company determines which environmental impacts it most likely needs to address with targets, and which parts of the business are the highest priority to get started with first. It will give your company a sense of where to invest time and energy in the target-setting process. Regardless of sector, geographic location, or level of sustainability experience, nearly all companies should be able to complete this step and meet the required validation criteria to move forward with the target setting process.

“This integrated assessment of nature impacts alongside climate has led us to identify a raw material that, despite minimal GHG emissions, exerts significant impacts on nature.”

SBTN 2024 Pilot Company
All of your company’s economic activities have an impact on nature.

Why should I assess my company’s impacts on nature?

All of your company’s economic activities have an impact on nature, for example, by transforming land, extracting resources, or releasing harmful emissions to the environment. In sustainability science, the ways in which an economic activity can affect nature are often called environmental pressures.* Not all of your pressures will be equally significant in terms of their impacts on nature. You should focus your target-setting efforts on those pressures that are determined to be material for the environment from a societal perspective, in other words, if the pressures are in reality or potentially causing significant impacts on people and nature.

By following the Step 1 technical guidance you will achieve two objectives. First, you will gain a broad understanding of which of your economic activities, and the environmental pressures they generate, are material enough to warrant setting science-based targets for nature. Second, you will collect the relevant operational and environmental data on these activities, which will be required to apply the methods outlined in subsequent steps. This helps focus your data gathering and target-setting efforts on the issues that are most important for nature. At the same time, this comprehensive overview of environmental data can also prove useful in supporting your sustainability initiatives and responsibilities beyond the context of science-based targets for nature.

* SBTN uses this terminology, but other initiatives and frameworks may use equivalent terms, such as direct drivers or impact drivers (used by the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) and the Natural Capital Protocol, respectively).

After completing Step 1 you will have:

  1. Identified which of your company’s pressures on nature are material to set targets on.
  2. Decided if you will focus your target-setting efforts on some of your business units first or start with the enterprise as a whole.
  3. Compiled data to quantify these pressures and the state of nature across your value chains.

Step 1 is organized into two sub-steps

1a Materiality screening

Step 1a, the materiality screening, is a quick and high-level process where you identify whether your economic activities are material on eight pressure categories

You will find a number of tools and resources, including many that are open source and open access, recommended in SBTN’s Step 1 Toolbox. You can use any of these, or any other tool that meets SBTN’s data quality criteria, to complete the screening and assessment.

Go to step 1a

1b Value chain assessment

Step 1b, the value chain assessment, is a more thorough resource process, but it is restricted to those activities and pressures that were determined to be material in the materiality screening. In this assessment, you will map your activities and value chains and quantify their resulting pressures on nature. 

Go to step 1b


Organizational boundary: The business operations that fall directly within your company’s ownership or control, and are thus under your responsibility for target setting.

High-impact commodities: Commodities known to be major drivers of biodiversity loss, including those listed in the EU’s new Deforestation Regulation (EUDR), and that are prioritized for data collection in the value chain assessment.

Materiality: This describes the environmental significance of an impact on nature, from a societal perspective.

Pressures: The ways in which an economic activity can affect nature; for example, water withdrawals, land use change, and pollutant emissions.

States of nature: These describe how healthy or fragile nature is in a given location (and how susceptible nature is to a pressure in that location); for example, water availability, ecosystem extent, and pollutant concentrations.

Business unit: A discrete part of your operations that can be chosen as the focus of your target setting.

Go to step 1a: Materiality screening