The first science-based targets for nature
The first corporate science-based targets for nature are here
The Science Based Targets Network – a global coalition of 80+ environmental non-profits and mission-driven organizations – has released the first corporate science-based targets for nature.
These much-needed targets on nature build on and complement existing climate targets, which have been set by over 2,600 companies through the Science Based Targets initiative. They have been developed to give companies the guidance to know if they are doing their part towards realizing the vision of an equitable, net zero and nature positive future.
To achieve a balance between scientific rigor and feasibility, over 200 organizations have already helped to shape the initial methods, tools and guidance. This includes 115 companies, the majority of whom participate in SBTN’s Corporate Engagement Program – representing 20+ sectors in 25 countries with over $4 trillion in market cap.
This first release from SBTN equips companies to assess their environmental impacts and set targets beginning with freshwater and land enabling companies to both reduce their negative impacts and increase positive ones for nature and people. Specifically, the first nature targets will help companies improve their impacts on freshwater quality (specific to nitrogen and phosphorus) and freshwater quantity as well as protect and restore terrestrial ecosystems.
The guidance draws on the best available science today and includes collaboration with the Earth Commission on the upcoming safe and just Earth System Boundaries. It is also aligned with global goals on climate, nature and development including the Global Biodiversity Framework, the Paris Agreement, and the UN Sustainable Development Goals.
This first release forms part of a multi-year plan to provide companies of all sizes and sectors with comprehensive science-based targets for nature, which will increase in scope as science and technology advances.
There is no net zero without meaningful action on nature
While climate change has become a key focus of many companies’ sustainability strategies, there is now clear scientific evidence that net zero is not possible without nature. This understanding comes amidst an unprecedented nature crisis, driven by unsustainable exploitation of Earth’s natural resources and systems.
Nature is the backbone of human well-being and the foundation for all economic activity. The interplay between nature and climate requires collective, joined-up action to stabilize the climate, preserve freshwater resources, regenerate land, secure a healthy ocean and protect biodiversity. This must be done in line with scientifically defined limits and on a socially equitable basis.
We call on all companies to start to assess their environmental impacts using the Science Based Target Network’s technical methodologies and prepare to set freshwater and land targets which can be validated by SBTN in 2024.
In 2023, an initial group of 17 companies are piloting the target validation process as well as the land methods which are currently in beta. This pilot will be of critical value towards the rollout of the target validation process and delivery of a version 1 of the land targets, both of which are anticipated to be available in early 2024 after incorporating insights from the pilot.
Useful linksHow companies can now take action
May 24 Launch Webinar
Scientific consensus confirms that containing global warming to 1.5C cannot be achieved without preventing, and reversing, nature loss. Nature absorbs roughly half of our carbon emissions a year and is the foundation of our economy and human life (1). The latest science also reinforces that climate change and nature loss increases inequality (2). Both climate change and nature loss must be addressed together to secure a healthy, resilient and equitable world.
With more than half (55%) of the world’s gross domestic product (GDP) (equivalent to an estimated 58tn USD) is moderately or highly dependent on nature (3), the business case for taking action to address nature and climate together has never been clearer. Building science-based targets into business strategies will not only be vital to helping secure a healthy, resilient and equitable world, but to driving long-term resilience for businesses.
With the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework – nature’s equivalent to the Paris climate agreement – finalized last December, science-based targets for nature is a key mechanism for companies to operationalize this global deal for nature including Target 15 which focuses on the role of business and managing and disclosing its impact on nature. Through science-based targets for nature, companies will measure and address their environmental impacts across their value chains using the best available science. They point not just to which impacts to avoid and reduce, such as deforestation and pollution, but also how to increase positive ones, including watershed restoration and rehabilitating degraded land.
(1) Rockström, Beringer & Hole (2021), “We need biosphere stewardship that protects carbon sinks and builds resilience”; (2) IPCC (2023): “Sixth Assessment Report”; (3) PwC (2023), “Managing nature risks: From understanding to action”
Companies have a key role to play—and much to gain. The climate crisis and devastating loss of nature is fueled by “business as usual” activities. A new approach to doing business is not only necessary, it’s the greatest business opportunity of our lifetimes.
Adopting a holistic approach to addressing the climate and nature crises will create resilient businesses and sustainable economies, benefiting both the environment and society.
By understanding and addressing their environmental impacts, companies can help mitigate supply chain disruptions, get ahead of regulatory change and investor demands, and manage operational, reputational and market risks.
At the highest level, this release includes integrated technical guidance for companies to assess and prioritize their material impacts on the environment on freshwater quality (specific to nitrogen and phosphorus) and freshwater quantity as well as inter-related land targets to protect and restore terrestrial ecosystems, alongside climate through the Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi).
Land and freshwater targets that directly support biodiversity are the first action areas that SBTN is making available for companies to set targets against to both reduce their negative impacts and increase positive outcomes for nature and people. The first methods help companies address their impacts across their direct operations and upstream supply chains. Future releases of methods from SBTN will increase coverage of corporate impacts.
The full release of the methodology for science-based targets for nature includes the following resources – available in our Resources Library. Please note that the content in the first release is intended for a technical audience. A Corporate Manual will be published later in 2023 to serve as an executive summary to guide companies through method implementation.
- Step 1: Assess – an integrated assessment method to identify key issues and locations to focus on for target setting
- Step 2: Interpret and Prioritize – a method for prioritization of target setting, using a mix of environmental, social, and financial considerations
- Step 3: Measure, Set, Disclose – methods for setting land and freshwater targets, addressing some of the dominant drivers of biodiversity loss and climate change
- Biodiversity Paper – summarizes the coverage of biodiversity within the first methods for science-based targets for nature and next steps for SBTN biodiversity methodology
- Stakeholder Engagement Guidance – guidance focused on human rights and stakeholder engagement best practices for work with Indigenous Peoples and other affected communities
- SBTN Materiality Screening Tool – tool for a quick screening of all environmental issues covered by SBTN using sector-level data
- SBTN High Impact Commodity List – resource to enable companies to quickly identify priority inputs (upstream) and activities (direct operations) to focus on during target setting, based on known environmental impacts of commodities
- Other tool and data offerings – specialized resources created to enable the implementation of the SBTN methods, such as the Natural Lands map for Step 3: Land and the unified water quantity and quality map layers for Step 2
- Ursus Nourishment Case Study – fictitious example of a food and beverage company following the SBTN methods (to be published shortly).
- SBTN Data Needs Table – standalone resource to readily identify step-by-step data needs for companies
- Updated interim Targets (actions companies can take to round out their environmental strategy, complementing the application of the first SBT for nature methods). We are currently updating the interim targets and they will be published shortly.
For more details, please read the Guide for Readers.
To complement this technical content, later in 2023 we will release:
- Corporate Manual: a how-to guide to translate the just-published technical methods into business-friendly language. Its primary aim is to help corporate sustainability professionals easily understand the steps, data, and expertise required for target setting, as well as the claims and expectations for target validation and future method development.
- Validation Criteria: A summary document of the Validation Criteria embedded in the methods
- Claims Guidance: to help companies accurately and transparently communicate validated targets when the validation process is available in 2024, upon pilot completion
- SBTN-TNFD Guidance (version 2): Target-setting guidance from SBTN and TNFD, developed as part of TNFD’s beta release. This guidance will be updated after SBTN’s first release to address areas of overlap and differences between SBTN and TNFD.
- Stakeholder Guidance (version 1): This local stakeholder engagement guidance for companies, will be based on a shared outline with TNFD. A joint working group review with TNFD will ensure alignment and address missing perspectives. A beta version has been published with the 2023 release in May
- Biodiversity Paper (long form): This will offer an overview of the SBTN approach to biodiversity, covering biodiversity at a high level, and will provide a gap analysis, and pathways for greater inclusion. A short overview has been published with the 2023 release in May
- Data Readiness Guide: This will assist companies in preparing the data required to complete Step 1 of science-based target setting.
Integral to SBTN’s development process is ensuring the optimal balance between scientific rigor and feasibility for companies to take action. The technical documents published by SBTN have been developed through rigorous review and piloting involving SBTN’s NGO and corporate partners, as well as a public consultation process.
SBTN guidance is developed iteratively, constantly evolving with feedback from partners, stakeholders, and experts in our multi-stakeholder review process. All methodology within the first release of science-based targets for nature has undergone the following stages of review: internal technical consultation, corporate engagement consultation, public consultation, and an external expert review panel.
We are calling on all businesses to assess and prioritize their environmental impact, and to prepare to set science-based targets for nature – starting with freshwater and land. Any company will be able to submit their targets for validation in early 2024 (timing dependent on pilot outcomes).
The SBTN has selected 17 pilot companies – selected for their readiness and applicability – to set the first targets and pilot the use of this first release this year. These companies represent sectors and supply chains with a high impact on nature.
These companies will be piloting the target validation process as well as the land methods which are currently in beta. This pilot will be of critical value towards the rollout of the target validation process and delivery of a version 1 of the land targets, both of which are anticipated to be available in early 2024 after incorporating insights from the pilot.
The freshwater methods are at a high level of readiness and stability, having been piloted by companies between 2021-2022, followed in 2022 by an internal consultation, public consultation and then an expert panel review.
The land methods have undergone an internal consultation in Dec 2022-Jan 2023 with experts from industry, academia and NGOs, followed by an expert review panel review and public consultation for broader representation in Feb-March 2023. However they have not yet been piloted by companies. The goal is to capture learnings from the corporate pilot this year such as understanding what guidance is needed to ensure companies can increase supply chain traceability and then make optimizations ahead of a version one roll-out, aiming for early 2024.
We are enabling a first group of companies to submit and have validated SBTs using first release content (~17 companies initially, across the key sectors and geographies driving nature loss for which this first release is most applicable).
We want to ensure the validation criteria for companies to set targets is robust, feasible and has clear validation and we have the ability to make any necessary optimizations before a full roll-out. We also want to gain an understanding of anticipated process times for companies and required resources to scale and respond to demand.
The pilot will further inform SBTN’s investigation of alternative validation models that best fit the methods, the plans to scale, and the evolution of methods. SBTN will distil lessons learned from the validation pilot into an anonymized public report and revise the validation process if needed.
After distilling lessons learnt from the validation pilot test, all companies will be invited to submit targets for validation in Q1 2024 (timing depending on pilot outcomes).
SBTN has developed a set of validation criteria designed as safeguards to guarantee companies have correctly and completely followed the methods. These validation criteria must be met before targets are accepted and companies are approved to make claims associated with those targets. The analysis will be done by an independent target validation pilot team who have not been involved in method development.
A validation process to guide companies through the required process to prepare and submit its targets for validation will also be provided. An initial group of companies are piloting the target validation process in 2023 with a full roll-out to companies anticipated in early 2024 once the pilot concludes and learnings have been incorporated.
Integral to SBTN’s development process is ensuring the optimal balance between scientific rigor and feasibility for companies to take action. The technical documents published by SBTN have been developed through rigorous review and piloting involving SBTN’s NGO and corporate partners, as well as a public consultation process. SBTN guidance is developed iteratively, constantly evolving with feedback from partners, stakeholders, and experts in our multi-stakeholder review process.
All methodology within the first release of science-based targets for nature has undergone the following stages of review: internal technical consultation, corporate engagement consultation, public consultation, and an external expert review panel. The first release of SBTs for nature endeavors to address that feedback while balancing rigor with end-user feasibility. SBTN will release the themes raised in these consultations and SBTN’s related responses as a supplementary document following the first methods release.
The purpose of our guidance is to empower companies to deploy a clear, analytical approach, tested and vetted by scientific experts, for assessing and addressing their environmental impacts. For this reason, the methodology builds on existing related frameworks, data and tools to increase efficiency for companies with more sustainability experience. It also aims to create a pathway for companies who are earlier on their sustainability journey, by providing tools, data and models to facilitate target-setting.
SBTN aims to create a streamlined target-setting process for companies that enables progress towards multiple sustainability objectives in tandem. Companies can identify points of connection between SBTN methods and other common sustainability frameworks, standards, and regulations in the “Connections to other frameworks” sections of our methods. Companies can use that information to leverage their existing work to set SBTs for nature, and to understand how science-based targets for nature support other related frameworks. In most cases companies will find that science-based targets for nature exceed the ambition of current policy frameworks but if there are exceptions, SBTN encourages companies to adopt more stringent targets in line with the science-based target indicators for freshwater and land and submit these for validation.
SBTN is, by design, more detailed and prescriptive than other frameworks in the sustainability space, providing thorough step-by-step guidance at each stage of the process.
Within our documents SBTN connections to other relevant organizations including: Science Based Targets Initiative (SBTi)*, the Taskforce on Nature-Related Financial Disclosure (TNFD), the Accountability Framework Initiative (AFi), the Alliance for Water Stewardship (AWS), the Natural Capital Protocol (NCP), the Biological Diversity Protocol (BDP), the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI), CDP, Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), United Nations (UN), International Organization for Standardization (ISO), ESRS/EFRAG and emerging EU requirements.
*Please note that SBTN methods complement but do not supersede the guidance and requirements provided by SBTi, e.g., for assessing GHG impacts throughout all material value chain activities.
SBTN and the Taskforce on Nature-related Financial Disclosures (TNFD) share the same vision: transforming business models toward a nature positive economy, based on the best available science. SBTN is equipping companies with the guidance to set science-based targets for nature. TNFD, in turn, is working to create a framework for companies and financial institutions to manage and disclose their nature-related risks. SBTN and TNFD are working actively together (SBTN is one of 16 TNFD Knowledge Partners) to ensure alignment in the way those nature-related risks are understood, framed, and addressed by companies and financial institutions, so they can incorporate nature into their decision-making processes in the most impactful and efficient way.
Specifically, the TNFD beta framework has adopted SBTN’s definitions of impacts and dependencies on nature, reflecting the foundational and methodological parallels between both initiatives. The critical importance of SBTN’s second target-setting step, for companies to prioritize action based on geographic location, is also reflected in the first step of TNFD’s framework.
One key output of this collaboration so far is joint target-setting guidance developed as part of TNFD’s beta release. Following the first release of SBTs for nature, SBTN and TNFD will update this guidance to further expand on the areas of alignment. The goal is to have as integrated an approach as possible for companies.
The first release of science-based targets for nature represents the first significant step in SBTN’s multi-year plan to provide companies of all sizes and sectors with comprehensive SBTs for nature across freshwater, land, biodiversity and ocean.
Subsequent releases beyond 2023 will increase the scope of issues and other dimensions that SBTN is able to cover with its guidance, in line with the latest science and development within the Network.
We anticipate publishing additional methods beginning in late 2024 including expanded land targets, further coverage of biodiversity, marine impacts, and additional sources of freshwater pollution. SBTN will also issue guidance to companies on target implementation (Step 4) and target monitoring, reporting and verification (Step 5), along with validatable metrics associated with the Stakeholder Engagement Guidance.