Below we answer common questions on Science Based Targets Network and science-based targets for nature. For more technical questions related to our guidance, please reference our technical FAQs.

Who is the Science Based Targets Network?

Our vision

To enable a global economy in which companies and cities operate within environmental boundaries on a socially equitable basis, through implementing science-based targets (SBTs) that reduce and improve their impact on nature and society.

Our mission

  • Equip companies and cities with the guidance they need to set integrated science-based targets across all Earth systems. Note SBTN’s current primary focus is on developing corporate science-based targets for nature with initial guidance for cities anticipated in 2025. 
  • Build on the progress of establishing science-based targets for climate to achieve widespread adoption of science-based targets on freshwater, land, biodiversity and ocean.
  • Make significant and demonstrable progress in line with key global policy milestones like the SDGs, and goals and targets under the UNFCCC, UNCCD, CBD. 
  • Work to embed adoption of science-based targets within capital markets by partnering with policy makers, financial institutions and service providers such as benchmarkers and credit agencies.

For more information on SBTN, visit our “About” section on our website beginning with “Who we are“.

You can learn about SBTN’s unique value proposition here. Drawing from companies’ experiences road testing science-based targets nature over the past couple of years, primarily through our Corporate Engagement Program, learn about the benefits of setting science-based targets nature here

In addition, our target validation pilot concluded in June 2024 and demonstrated that SBTN has delivered significant benefits and value to participating companies, including:

  • Increases ambition and drives credible action on nature
  • Leads to strategic discussions across business functions at a leadership level; generating value
  • Provides credibility and a common language to advance engagement with stakeholders 
  • Serves as a trusted compass, a “source of truth” for companies to get to the right solutions

Supporting details from companies on these benefits can be found in our pilot summary report. Interim insights from these piloting companies shared in January 2024 can be found here.

SBTN is a network of 80+ NGOs, business associations, and mission-driven consultancies contributing their expertise to collectively define what is necessary to do “enough” to stay within Earth’s limits. SBTN’s Network Council, comprised of our core partners, guides our strategic decision-making. SBTN is part of the Global Commons Alliance, a growing coalition of scientists, philanthropists, businesses and innovators, inspiring new ideas and action to safeguard what’s common and precious to us all: the global commons.

There are four nature hubs that sit within SBTN: the biodiversity hub, the freshwater hub, the land hub, and the ocean hub, with the Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi) as our external climate hub. These hubs are developing the different methods that feed into science-based targets for nature. Various NGO partners either lead or engage directly in these hubs. 

The cross-cutting technical team from the core Network team coordinates across these hubs, and is also responsible for the preparatory methods (Step 1: Assess and Step 2: Prioritize) that companies undertake to assess and prioritize their environmental impacts prior to setting targets (Step 3: Set Targets). Partners and team members involved in the hubs can be found here.

To achieve a balance between scientific rigor and feasibility, over 200 organizations have helped to road-test the initial corporate methods, tools and guidance including 160 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, plus companies working through partners including SBTN’s referral program.

In addition, an initial group of global companies piloted the implementation of the first science-based targets for nature (published in May 2023) as well as the underlying target validation process in 2023-2024. These companies included AB InBev, Alpro (part of Danone), Bel, Carrefour, Corbion, GSK, H&M Group, Hindustan Zinc Limited, Holcim Group, Kering, L’OCCITANE Group, LVMH, Nestlé, Neste Corporation, Suntory Holdings Limited, Tesco and UPM.

In the second half of 2024, companies will be invited to submit their science-based targets for nature for validation. If your company is interested in submitting nature targets in 2024, more information can be found here.

What are science-based targets for nature?

We define science-based targets (SBTs) as measurable, actionable, and time-bound objectives, based on the best available science, that allow actors to align with Earth’s limits and societal sustainability goals.

We are working on science-based targets for a wide variety of environmental issues, centered around the key drivers of nature loss as identified by the IPBES: land/sea use change, resource exploitation, pollution, climate change, and invasives. IPBES has identified that these drivers (or what SBTN calls “pressures”) of nature loss occur across three main realms: terrestrial, freshwater, and marine. Science-based targets for nature will help companies and cities reduce their contribution to these drivers, across all three systems, and ultimately mitigate threats to biodiversity, at the levels of species, ecosystems and nature’s contributions to people (NCPs).

We define nature as all non-human living entities and their interaction with other living or non-living entities and processes (IPBES Global Assessment 2019). This definition recognizes that interactions bind humans and nature, and nature’s subcomponents (e.g., species, soils, rivers, nutrients), to one another. This definition also recognizes that air pollution, climate regulation, and carbon cycles are part of “nature” more broadly, and therefore, when we talk about acting for nature, we are talking about acting on issues related to climate change, as well.

For further definitions, see the SBTN Glossary.

The definition of nature used by SBTN includes both biotic (living) and abiotic (non-living) components. Hence, SBTN uses indicators for the State of Nature (SoN) that cover both of these types of components. In our current methods, for example, SoN indicators such as those measuring water availability, water quality, land degradation, natural ecosystem extent, and species extinction risk are used. These help contextualize the importance of corporate impacts (Step 1: Assess), guide the definition of the target boundary (Step 2: Prioritize), and to determine ambition levels for targets (Step 3: Set Targets).

Companies set separate targets for each pressure material for their business. This means that companies have distinct targets for freshwater use, freshwater pollution, land use change, climate change, etc. Having separate target setting methods allows companies the flexibility to work on different sets of issues, depending on the outcomes of their materiality assessment.  

For internal reporting and external communications, companies may communicate about these as “targets for freshwater,” “targets for land,” and also as “targets for nature” when grouping these together. The distinction between pressures is essential, however, for the process of setting targets (Step 1-3), for planning action plans (Step 4), and tracking progress against targets (Step 5). 

We provide integrated guidance on impact assessment and prioritization (Step 1 and Step 2 of the target setting process) and independent target-setting methodologies (Step 3) for pressures on land and freshwater systems. Ocean targets will be available in 2025. Within these methodologies companies are assessing and then taking action on the dominant drivers of biodiversity loss. 

The process of validation checks that companies have set targets for each of the material pressures for their business, for which SBTN has methods or requirements, before they can make claims about having set “SBTs for nature” as an integrated and comprehensive milestone.

SBTN has developed and piloted 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. 

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 piloted the target validation process in 2023-24 with a broader roll-out to companies later in 2024.

Initial guidance on how companies can monitor, report, and get verification on progress on their targets can be found in the Initial Guidance for Business as part of “Track” (Step 5). Additional measurement, reporting and verification guidance is in the development pipeline.

In addition to drawing from the scientific expertise of the organizations comprising SBTN, SBTN works with the Earth Commission, a group of leading scientists (with key authors of the IPCC and IPBES) convened by Future Earth, the world’s largest network of sustainability scientists. The Earth Commission’s mission is to assess the latest science and define, for the first time, safe and just Earth system boundaries for people and planet. SBTN and the Earth Commission are core components of the Global Commons Alliance.

A number of Earth Commissioners are experts in the Planetary Boundaries framework, including one of Earth Commission’s co-chairs, Johan Rockström. The Earth Commission’s work improves upon the Planetary Boundaries framework by mapping out the interconnections between different systems or boundaries, adding a focus on equity and improvements in the quality of life for the most vulnerable.

These quantified boundaries were published in Nature in May 2023 and provide one of the most holistic measurements of Earth’s finite limits, marking a step change in understanding how to protect people and the planet. Building on this strong foundation, the Earth Commission’s second assessment, available later in 2024, will refine and expand on the safe and just boundaries by: 

  • Quantifying boundaries for new Earth System domains such as Novel Entities (including toxic substances) and the Ocean
  • Increasing its focus on the just transformations necessary across all of society 
  • Highlighting the justice, governance and economic requirements for those transformations

The long-term goal of SBTN’s collaboration with the Earth Commission will be to contribute to our understanding of: a) biophysical thresholds relevant to target setting, b) the integration of social safeguards into our methods, and c) the interconnections between targets and response options.

A safe and just operating space for humanity entails staying within planetary boundaries of multiple Earth systems – not just one. Action on climate change that ignores the other planetary boundaries cannot ensure we are able to reach and stay in a safe operating space (Lade et al. 2019).

Action on climate change reduces one of the key drivers of nature’s loss and degradation (IPBES 2019), but we must also explicitly take action to curtail the other drivers and pressures (e.g., resource exploitation, land and sea use, and invasive species) pushing nature towards irreversible tipping points. Otherwise, we jeopardize nature’s capacity to deliver key functions for the climate system, such as carbon absorption. If instead we link action on climate and nature, we will design solutions which have greater overall positive impact for the Earth – and its people – and avoid shifting the burden from one subsystem to another.

To accomplish this goal, we are drawing on the best available science and collaborating with the Earth Commission on its Earth System Boundaries science, which uses integrated assessment models and scenario analysis to develop pathways toward a safe and just future that creates more co-benefits and minimizes tradeoffs between impacts on different systems.

For climate, the goal to which targets correspond (1.5C) addresses a single driver: GHG emissions. Actors must reduce their contributions to emissions, but have freedom in determining the ways in which to do so.  SBTs for nature must account for several additional complexities: 

  • There is currently no singular, overarching global goal around which we can organize ourselves to take action for nature. 
  • The drivers of nature loss are multiple, varied, and interlinked.
  • For climate, the key indicator to track is (reduction or increase in) GHGs; for nature, we need to track indicators related to biodiversity, water, land, and the ocean.
  • Whereas action for climate change can happen anywhere, nature’s loss and degradation are location-specific, both in the drivers and consequences; we must therefore ask where to act to attain critical outcomes. 

Climate is the fifth pillar of SBTN’s framework (following land, freshwater, oceans and biodiversity) and all companies with material contributions to greenhouse gasses are expected to set a climate target via SBTi as part of their science-based target for nature. Companies who have already collected emission data and set targets for climate are a step ahead. 

While setting SBTs for nature, using SBTN’s holistic guidance, companies should be able to identify opportunities for meeting their climate targets (set using SBTi methods) and their targets for other aspects of nature at the same time.

Operationally, as part of SBTN’s technical development, we are working to align with the SBTi process where possible to ensure companies receive guidance that is aligned across the organizations. A number of technical experts are working across both SBTi and SBTN to facilitate this. Two clear examples of alignment include the application of the GHG Protocol framework within the land methods and the collaboration between Land Hub members and the team behind SBTi’s Forest, Land and Agriculture-Related Sector (FLAG) Standard.

Climate and nature goals can, and must, be achieved holistically. Therefore SBTN’s guidance builds on and complements SBTi’s guidance on climate science-based targets.

The first step in setting science-based targets for nature is a screening of a company’s impacts on nature, including climate change (through GHG emissions). This is necessary because climate change is a key driver of nature loss. For any company to make claims about how their SBTs for nature contribute toward environmental improvements, they therefore must understand and manage their contributions toward climate change, as well as the other key environmental issues managed through SBTs for nature (v1): water use, water pollution, land use and land use change. 

In Step 1: Assess, all companies are required to, at a minimum, screen GHG emissions/climate in Step 1a. All companies that have already completed a GHG inventory do not need to repeat this exercise in Step 1b. All companies that find climate to be material, and have not completed a GHG inventory should do so using SBTi methods in order to fulfill SBTN requirements. 

Companies that are required by SBTi to set Forest, Land and Agriculture (FLAG) targets are also required by SBTN to set an SBTN No Conversion of Natural Ecosystems target and a Land Footprint Reduction target (in this case, if they meet the company size requirement).

Correspondingly, if companies set land targets (that address corporate impacts on nature in land systems, beyond GHG emissions) through SBTN then they are required to set corresponding FLAG targets (GHG emission impacts) through SBTi.

Please visit our biodiversity section on our website to understand how companies directly address the drivers of biodiversity loss associated with their business activities through science-based targets for nature.


We are designing science-based targets for nature to address the needs of both the environment and people. We do this in a few ways:

  • By applying an environmental and societal materiality lens in the process of setting science-based targets for nature. Companies setting targets are required to look beyond issues which are financially material in the short term, and to issues which are significant for the well-being of the people with whom they share the landscapes they inhabit. 
  • By encouraging companies setting targets to work with local stakeholders directly.  In recognition of the importance of stakeholder engagement, particularly for communities and stakeholders affected by company actions, companies are strongly recommended to follow SBTN’s Stakeholder Engagement Guidance (updated guidance forthcoming) when applying methods for setting science-based targets for nature.
  • We directly reference and cite the work of the Earth Commission on defining a safe and just corridor for humanity within our Stakeholder Engagement Guidance. The level of ambition that companies are asked to exhibit aligns to this safe and just corridor, including what’s needed to ensure humanity enters and stays within it.
  • By determining how much action is needed, and by tracking progress against targets, with indicators used in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

At SBTN, our core mandate is to develop methods, guidance, and tools so that companies can manage their negative contributions to nature loss, and contribute positively to a nature positive, net-zero, and equitable future.

Here we explain how companies can contribute to nature positive outcomes through science-based targets for nature.

SBTN’s methodology focuses on the impacts companies have on the environment and society. This means addressing the significant pressures their activities place on nature, including people, in alignment with the SBTN action framework AR3T.

Many companies also depend on nature and its ecosystem services for their operations. These are called dependencies. Understanding these dependencies can help companies identify their risks associated with the loss or degradation of ecosystem services and opportunities to improve their positive impacts on nature.

For this reason, the SBTN methodology starts with a strong impact based assessment and prioritization (See Step 1 and Steps 2a and 2b) before complementing this approach with data on dependencies, as well as on stakeholder needs, and other aspects of financial materiality in Step 2c. 

This approach distinguishes between impacts and dependencies while recognizing their connection and importance. Combining both perspectives allows companies to build their target-setting strategy using a double materiality perspective.

For example, companies might prioritize setting targets in locations with both significant environmental impacts and dependencies, increasing their ambition levels beyond the thresholds or timeframes in the target-setting methodology. A company may, for instance, may opt to implement more stringent water use reductions to ensure long-term water security. This strategy will enhance the availability of nature’s contribution to people (NCPs) which are also ecosystem services that support business activities, such as providing water for agricultural operations.

How does my organization set science-based targets for nature?

The high level process is as follows:

Explore our online guide to target-setting here

The key steps companies should get started on today are Step 1: Assess and Step 2: Prioritize. Companies can use our guidance to assess their potential impacts on nature and determine where these occur throughout their value chain(s). This may be an involved process and is best started early. 

For Step 3: Set Targets, once a company has gone through the above steps and understands where they have material impacts on nature, they can set freshwater and land targets through SBTN and climate targets through Science Based Targets initiative. In the second half of 2024, companies will be invited to submit their science-based targets for nature for validation. If your company is interested in submitting nature targets in 2024, more information can be found here.

For Step 4: Act, we suggest a hierarchical approach to action (The AR3T Action Framework) which calls for first avoiding, then reducing impacts where avoidance is not possible, followed by regenerating natural capital stocks and restoring ecosystems. Protecting nature is about ensuring a public “good” – thus, how we act must include not only reduction of “bad” actions (e.g., mitigation of pollution), but also increasing the “good” (e.g., restoring and regenerating nature). Though listed last, transform is not the final step; instead, a company should be constantly working to transform its business model and practices to enable its own transition toward positive impact and to unlock broader systemic change to deliver on society’s goals for nature and people throughout the entire process.

For Step 5: Track, initial guidance on how companies can monitor, report, and get verification on progress on their targets can be found in the Initial Guidance for Business and on our website.

Some adjustments in the above process will need to be made for companies who have already done (significant) sustainability work. This process is not linear but rather has feedback connections between many steps.

We provide a robust and integrated methodology that offers companies the guidance and tools they need to set validatable targets to directly address their pressures on freshwater and land and biodiversity today. Future releases will increase coverage of corporate impacts.

All materials can be found in our Resource Library. You can explore all of our latest corporate guidance online through our target-setting guide which is also available offline through our corporate manual. Both serve as the main entry point into our technical methods.

Key resources include:

  • Methods:
    • 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
  • Guidance:
    • Biodiversity Paper – short paper summarizing the coverage of biodiversity within the first methods for science-based targets for nature and next steps for SBTN biodiversity methodology (a comprehensive assessment coming soon)
    • Stakeholder Engagement Guidance – beta guidance focused on human rights and stakeholder engagement best practices for work with Indigenous Peoples and other affected communities (updated guidance available soon)
  • Tools:
    • 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
  • Other Resources:
    • SBTN Data Needs Table – standalone resource to readily identify step-by-step data needs for companies

Claims Guidance to help companies accurately and transparently communicate validated targets will be available soon.

For cities, guidance to set climate SBTs is available using SBTN’s guide and flowchart tool. Cities setting these targets should disclose them through existing reporting platforms, e.g., CDP/ICLEI or MyCovenant. For cities, initial guidance on science-based targets for nature is planned for 2025. 

Please see our “How to get started” section on our website here with some resources that will be helpful in engaging your stakeholders. 

We will be looking to develop further supporting resources over time and will update this list as more become available.

In 2020, the Science Based Targets Network (SBTN) released its Initial Guidance for Business. This foundational guidance introduced readers to the process of setting science-based targets (SBTs) for nature and the essential elements of the conceptual framework that underpins the Network’s approach to developing target setting methods. Companies that are interested in learning about our conceptual framework are  recommended to consult the Initial Guidance

Building on the Initial Guidance, we have developed technical guidance to provide the methodological detail to set targets. As technical guidance is released, it supersedes the Initial Guidance. Companies should use the latest technical guidance on Steps 1: Assess, 2: Interpret & Prioritize, and 3: Measure, Set, Disclose (available in the Resource Library). Companies are suggested to refer to the Initial Guidance on Steps 4 and 5 in addition to resources within the Resource Library, until future guidance is released.

Certain SBTN targets can be applied to most types of companies, no matter the sector, geography, or size. This includes the freshwater quantity target and the landscape engagement target. However, other targets (e.g. the water quality for nitrogen and phosphorus, land footprint reduction, and no conversion for natural lands targets) have a narrower applicability. If there are pressures you assume to be material for your company, but for which SBTN does not currently have methods available, companies are recommended to use the interim targets suggested by SBTN to make sure their pressures are managed. We will be publishing revised interim targets shortly.

When the validation process is rolled out more broadly later in 2024, companies can submit their targets for validation. Once their targets are validated, meaning the targets meet the methodology criteria, companies will be able to make claims in accordance to SBTN’s forthcoming Claims Guidance.

The SBTN Claims Guidance will focus on communications based on factual information confirmed by the validation team that the methods have been correctly implemented. Other claims related to progress against validated targets should follow future SBTN guidance. SBTN is now in the process of developing guidance for Step 4 (implementation of targets) and Step 5 (tracking progress) of the SBTN framework.

We are in the early stages of a multi-year plan to provide companies of all sizes and sectors with comprehensive SBTs for nature across freshwater, land, biodiversity and ocean.

Subsequent releases of SBTs for nature will increase the scope of issues and other dimensions that we can cover with our guidance, in line with the latest science and development within the Network.

The roadmap includes expanded freshwater (e.g. pollutants beyond nitrogen and phosphorus) and land targets, additional biodiversity coverage, the first ocean targets, integration of social metrics into methods, detailed guidance on implementing targets (Step 4) and tracking progress (Step 5), as well as custom guidance for sectors and small-to-medium enterprises.

Throughout the process of acting on science-based targets for nature, companies will track and report on their progress (Step 5: Track in SBTN’s 5-step framework). This is critical to ensure the integrity of the targets and accountability of the company. Our current technical guidance ifocuses on the first three steps of the 5-step framework: assessing and prioritizing the company’s environmental impacts and setting targets on freshwater, land and climate. Detailed technical guidance for measurement, reporting and verification (MRV) of science-based targets for nature are in the development pipeline.

As an interim solution, SBTN tested the use of ‘Action Plans’ with the companies in the initial target validation group. In these plans, companies were required to provide information to SBTN on how they will monitor and report on the progress against targets. It is anticipated that companies will publicly disclose their target progress.

Once SBTN has an established MRV system in place, we will begin to formalize requirements about corporate reporting (e.g. to SBTN or other parties), as well as share results of progress gleaned through monitoring (e.g. through satellite or other technologies) and through verification (e.g. through third-party actors engaged by companies to assess their progress).

Methodologies to assess the impact at downstream sites – which themselves are tools to identify what activities may fall within the organizational sphere of influence and responsibility in the downstream part of the value chain – are under development. 

Please see “How do people fit into SBTs?” question for a general overview of SBTN’s approach.

Part of SBTN’s first release in 2023 included Stakeholder Engagement Guidance (updated guidance forthcoming) to help businesses effectively collaborate in the implementation of science-based targets for nature, particularly with those who may be significantly affected on the ground with a focus on traditionally under-represented groups such as Indigenous People and local communities. Updated guidance will be available in 2024.

Our methods also include guidance for companies to work with other stakeholders in the places where science-based targets are set including nonprofits, community organizations, academics and local governments. We want to ensure companies are building on existing environmental knowledge, setting targets that are aligned with local ambitions, and establishing the basis for a collaborative relationship during target setting, implementation and beyond. This is our first step in ensuring a just implementation of the targets and helps us take the next step towards targets which more fully represent the needs of different local stakeholders.

This is part of what SBTN hopes to answer with its 2023-2024 validation pilot.  

No company has formally set targets using our guidance so we don’t have a clear picture of how much time and resources this could take, although we do have some indication from companies within the Corporate Engagement Program who have been road-testing SBTN’s guidance. For more advanced companies who have already gathered the necessary data, it has taken around 1-2 months to complete Steps 1 and 2. These companies usually work with external consultants to complete these steps – if you are interested in exploring that route, you can find a list of trusted experts here.  We encourage companies to look at the data requirements in Steps 1, 2 and 3 for Freshwater and Land to see how much more work your company will have to do in order to get the targets completed. 

In general, costs and time-line will vary, depending on: size and complexity of the company; the data on material impacts and dependencies the company currently has on hand and needs to collect; the extent and rigor of action companies have previously taken or are currently undertaking; and the availability of data for a given impact area and/or location. As many companies using SBTN’s guidance are working with external consultancies, costs can also vary. Cost estimates for the validation of SBTs for nature will not be available until 2024 at the earliest.

Tools will often have different models for use, with some being freely available to all users, some being freely available for certain uses, and some being free at different resolutions. Tools required by SBTN for use in the methods will be freely accessible for companies setting targets, at the minimum resolution required for the methods. Companies and consultants assisting companies may use tools that require subscriptions or other fees for use in order to complete the methods.

SBTN expects companies to eventually set targets to cover the full target boundary. However, this is not the expectation for the methods used in the first release given the limited timeframe for completion.  Part of what is being tested with the initial target validation group is how far these companies can get in target boundary coverage – SBTN will then use these learnings to issue requirements on how much of a company’s target boundary should be set and by when. For companies not in the initial piloting group, we encourage you to start with priority sites, then continue working towards full target boundary coverage.

How does SBTN relate to other initiatives?

Please see here for a blog post published in January 2024 which highlights our interconnection with the broader ecosystem of global initiatives mobilizing business for a nature positive future.

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. 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.

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.

The organizations behind the Science Based Targets initiative are among the core founding partners of the Network. SBTi focuses on SBTs for climate, for companies. Recognizing that more is needed in order to guarantee a safe future, SBTN is developing methods to set targets on all aspects of the environment (not just those related to climate) for companies, and ultimately for cities as well.

WWF’s technical staff are the leaders of the SBTi Forest, Land and Agriculture project (SBTi FLAG) and play key technical roles in SBTN’s Network Hub and Land Hub. 

The SBTi Forest, Land and Agriculture (SBTi FLAG) target setting methodology is based on land-related greenhouse gas emissions and removals. The focus is therefore on climate change and the actions companies take to address these emissions will maximize emissions reductions and removals. It also includes a requirement for companies to set a no-deforestation target and a recommendation for companies to set a no-conversion target. 

The suite of the land science-based targets have a wider focus on what nature needs, for example, the landscape engagement target requires companies to increase ecosystem integrity within priority landscapes for production and sourcing of high impact commodities and the no conversion of natural ecosystems target more explicitly addresses non-forest natural ecosystems which are critical biodiversity habitats. 

While there is a significant overlap in terms of the actions on land that companies would take to deliver against their science-based targets for land-related GHGs and removals (i.e. climate) and nature, the integration of climate and nature at the goal-setting level incentivizes more holistic approaches over singular “silver bullet” approaches that maximize the outcome of one indicator. For example, a climate-only lens might lead to fast-growing, monoculture, non-native tree planting for rapid carbon sequestration where land is relatively cheap (i.e. the biodiversity-rich tropical belt). This may have disastrous impacts on water availability, biodiversity loss and resilience in a region which would likely undermine climate outcomes due to increased wildfires, pests and disease.

The definition of science-based targets emphasizes alignment with societal goals, though as we note in our 2023 technical guidance this does not take precedence of the needs of marginalized communities which may not align with these societal goals. A key framework we center in our work is the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which lays out the SDGs. SBTN’s first release, which addresses both nature, biodiversity, and human needs, is also connected to the SDGs. In particular, targets set using SBTN methods will support SDGs 2 (Zero hunger), 6 (clean water and sanitation), 12 (sustainable consumption and production patterns), 15 (life on lands), that as a whole are covering interactions between Biodiversity, food, land and water. Targets set using the connected SBTi climate targets are connected to the SDG 13 (climate action).

Science-based targets for nature are designed to align with and translate global societal goals (including the UN SDGs and the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework) and the best available science into measurable and time-bound business action across companies’ value chains. By setting SBTs, companies can bring their operations into alignment with best practice under existing regulatory and voluntary frameworks for environmental impact management. 

Science-based targets for nature help companies operationalize the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework. They define the business contribution – at company level – towards halting and reversing nature loss by 2030. Aiming directly at the drivers and pressures of nature loss, science-based targets for nature will tell a company if they are taking enough of the right actions, in the right places, at the right time in order to do their part. They will 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.

The range of targets SBTs directly and indirectly address is broad. A key link between SBTN and the GBF is Target 15, which focuses on the role of business and managing its impact on nature. Target 15 and SBTs for nature are conceptually aligned: this isn’t about incremental impact reduction or damage limitation, this is about companies taking meaningful action – including impact assessment and impact management through setting science-based targets – to put their businesses on a path toward true sustainability and net positive impact.

One important point to note is that nature is obviously placed based so a company’s target ambition needs to be grounded in an understanding of environmental and societal needs in the location where the target is being set.

SBTN, Business for Nature, and the Capitals Coalition are close partners. Business for Nature promotes greater policy ambition to reverse nature loss and counts SBTs for nature as a mechanism for companies to demonstrate the ambition to do their part. The Capitals Coalition enables companies to value nature in their decision making. 

The process of setting SBTs can draw on the outputs of the Capitals Coalition Natural Capital Protocol (enabling companies to value nature in their decision-making) where companies have already carried these out.

Nature-based Solutions (NBS) are actions to protect, sustainably manage, and restore natural and modified ecosystems in ways that address societal challenges effectively and adaptively, to provide both human well-being and biodiversity benefits (see IUCN Global Standard, 2020.) When designed correctly, NBS have the potential to deliver key benefits for both people and nature. They are key strategies for companies to consider delivering on their nature and climate goals in unison, and hence they can be part of a suite of potential response options that companies can take to achieve their SBTs for nature (in Act: Step 4 of SBTN’s 5-step framework). As NBS address multiple issues at once, they can help deliver progress on multiple targets (i.e., land, water, biodiversity, etc.) at the same time.

Sustainable or responsible certification standards are widely used mechanisms to increase the sustainability of commodity sourcing. They contain numerous practices and outcome-based metrics to guide the mitigation of negative impacts on the environment (land, water, and ocean) and social systems – on which commodity production depends. Companies can leverage these mechanisms, as they provide value chain visibility and can give insight on the existent production and management practices in the landscape. This can provide companies with better data to use in their target setting journey, instead of relying on general or industry averages. They will also impact baseline values that companies use to set targets. While certifications focus actions on reducing impacts within a commodity supply chain, SBTs will encourage action beyond the company’s direct supply chain to drive restoration and transformation at a system level.

Both the SBTN and Circular Economy initiatives aim to keep companies’ impacts within planetary boundaries and require companies to transform their business models. Many principles and commonly used practices of the Circular Economy can help companies reduce their pressures on the environment. For example, by reducing their material and energy throughputs and eliminating their waste streams, companies can reduce pressures on SBTN indicators such as water use and land use. There is thus a mutually beneficial relationship between circularity principles and actions to achieve SBTs.

SBTN encourages companies to disclose their environmental data to disclosure platforms such as CDP, and according to standards such as GRI, SASB, TCFD, etc. This is a key action companies can pursue while SBTN continues to develop methods. We recognize that we are developing SBTs on top of a well-populated landscape of reporting and disclosure; we are trying to avoid adding to a reporting burden, align as much as possible with existing platforms and standards, and increase ambition level on something companies are already measuring.  At the same time, SBTN is working with our partners to ensure that data requested by these disclosure platforms and through their evolving reporting standards are consistent with the indicators and metrics used to set SBTs. 

By setting SBTs with SBTN, companies can meet the requirements of disclosure frameworks such as GRI, CDP, TCFD and TNFD (in development), and demonstrate to the investor community that their company is addressing and managing their impacts and dependencies on nature.

SBTN and 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,  has created 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 TNFD’s 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 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 is joint target-setting guidance published as part of TNFD’s v1 release in September 2023.

 The goal is to have as integrated an approach as possible for companies to set science-based targets through SBTN and manage and disclose nature-related risks through TNFD.

Financial institutions (FIs) play a vital role in driving and facilitating transformative system change, actively mobilizing resources towards that goal. For instance,140 FIs have signed the Finance for Biodiversity Pledge (totalling €19.7 trillion in assets under management).

SBTN’s current target-setting guidance focuses on companies and is a necessary precursor to guidance for financial institutions, as was the case with the Science Based Targets initiative.  Specific guidance for financial institutions to set science-based targets for nature will be forthcoming pending a sufficient corporate foundation and appropriate resourcing.

Today financial institutions can:

  • encourage and support clients and investees to set SBTs for nature (as many are doing on climate targets using SBTi) and prioritize corporates in high-risk sectors where FIs have high exposure and/or sphere of influence.
  • assess and disclose impacts and dependencies of portfolios (in line with target 15 of the Global Biodiversity Framework), including working with clients and partners in the value chain to locate impacts.

Public institutions are critical to solving the dual crises of climate change and nature loss. 

For companies setting targets, SBTN strongly encourages that as they address their environmental impacts, they also engage with policy makers to push for more ambitious policy where needed. When companies make voluntary commitments to set science-based targets for nature, it will enable and engender stronger voluntary action for nature and climate, in turn enabling stronger policy through positive “ambition loops” (Ambition Loop). 

On the whole, direct collaboration on policy and legislation is beyond SBTN’s remit, but our methods and targets seek to contribute to public policy goals. To ensure a regulatory space which is supportive of SBTs, we look to our partners within the Global Commons Alliance, namely the Earth Commission, and our partners within SBTN, namely Business for Nature.

Alignment with public policy is a top priority for SBTN as we strive to develop methods that contribute to societal goals. As the issues driving the loss of nature are location-specific and operate at different temporal and spatial scales, policy alignment needs to be addressed on a case-by-case basis.

In the first release of SBTs for nature, the methodologies for freshwater use and pollution require engagement with local governments, agencies, and other stakeholders to identify policy priorities and objectives related to water flows and nutrient pollution. The methods use scientific models to align a company’s individual efforts with these societal objectives. When local policies are not available (or can’t be linked to the scientific models), the methods use global models to define safe and sustainable targets applicable to most regions.

How can companies get started today?

SBTN and its partners are fully aware that clarity is needed on the variety of tools, frameworks, and methodologies that are currently available for companies to begin – or continue – their journey. We worked with Business for Nature (BfN) and 14 other partner organizations to highlight high-level business actions, Assess – Commit – Transform – Disclose (ACT-D), to simplify the sustainability landscape for companies and serve as an entry point for companies looking to take the more specific step of setting science-based targets for nature.

ACT-D builds on existing action frameworks and guidance, including the Science Based Targets for Nature Initial Guidance for Business, Natural Capital Protocol, the World Business Council for Sustainable Development’s (WBCSD) building blocks “What nature positive means to business?”, Business for Nature’s “Steps to be nature positive,” and the Taskforce on Nature-related Financial Disclosures (TNFD) framework (currently in beta version). These high-level business actions promote consistency in English language terms used, demonstrate how different tools and methodologies are connected, and focus companies efforts to halt and reverse nature loss.

You can explore our online guide to target-setting here which provides resources for the below.

Understand impacts on nature: Using our detailed Step 1 & Step 2 guidance, undertake a ‘root and branch’ audit of your business that will enable you to identify and learn about your company’s most material impacts on nature – and where they occur in your operations and across your value chain.

  • Start with a sector-level materiality screening to get a high-level overview of your organization’s environmental impact
  • Then estimate the pressures on nature that your company generates and identify the locations in which these pressures are particularly harmful to the state of nature
  • Finally prioritize which targets to set, which locations and economic activities to include within your company’s target boundaries, and where to act first

Measure and set targets: When you have assessed and prioritized areas for your company to take action, use our methodologies to set science-based targets for nature beginning with freshwater and land. Targets can be submitted for validation later in 2024.

  • Freshwater targets – beginning with quality and quantity
  • Land targets – a suite of three targets designed to work together to incentivize synergistic actions that contribute to nature goals in land systems.
  • Climate targets should also be set where possible through the Science Based Targets initiative
  • Complementary interim targets (revised ones in the development pipeline)
  • Get ready to disclose in line with guidance from SBTN and TNFD’s disclosure recommendations.

Mobilize Action: If your company wants to take action on nature but is not ready to set science-based targets for nature, these are the actions you can take:

  • Start to understand your organization’s environmental impacts with our sector-level materiality screening (part of Step 1 guidance)
  • Join our Corporate Engagement Program to lead the way on ambitious corporate action on nature.
  • Get expert help from our recommended service providers to guide your organization through the target-setting process.
  • Rally internal buy-in using our onboarding resources available in our “How to get started” section on our website. We are looking to develop further supporting resources over time.

Start transforming your business

  • Commit to an ambitious, high-level goal for nature at your company.
  • Support nature-friendly policy by committing to businessfornature.org.

There are currently ~170 companies, 90+ consultants, 16 industry coalitions, and 7 financial institutions engaging directly with SBTN through the Corporate Engagement Program to road-test our guidance. In addition, we have approximately 30 companies working indirectly with SBTN through our partner network.

  • Co-create: Give feedback on the design to create more user-friendly and cost effective methods and tools
  • Get strategic insight: Gain strategic insight into cutting-edge science and approaches to science-based targets for nature so you can better align your company’s sustainability goals and strategy
  • Prioritize: If your company wants to take action on nature and is not sure how to begin, SBTN’s guidance offers tools and approaches to help companies understand and prioritize which issues and geographies to take action on and what types of action to take
  • Share: SBTN offers participants a public platform to share use-cases on how you are implementing aspects of the initial guidance
  • Indicate alignment: Indicate your organization’s alignment with SBTN’s vision and goals
  • Join learning sessions: SBTN conducts webinars on various topics for the participant community to address common