Submitting your targets for validation

To set and implement science-based targets requires companies to have these first reviewed and validated by SBTN. This is an independent process involving expert review to validate the integrity of the target(s) ensuring they meet the required criteria and methods of science-based targets.  

Alongside the launch of the first science-based targets for nature in May 2023, an initial group of pre-selected companies are piloting the underlying target validation process. These companies were selected for their readiness and applicability of the methods to their organizations; representing sectors and supply chains with a high impact on nature.

We are piloting the target validation process to ensure the validation criteria for companies to set targets is robust, feasible and clear and that we have the ability to make any necessary optimizations before opening the validation process to all interested companies. 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 also further inform SBTN’s investigation of alternative validation models that best fit the methods. 

A full roll-out to companies is anticipated in early 2024 once the pilot concludes and learnings have been incorporated. SBTN will distil lessons learned from the validation pilot into an anonymized public report. 

We call on all companies not part of this initial group to now assess and prioritize their environmental impacts using our 2023 technical guidance. Depending on the company’s material impacts, companies can then prepare freshwater and land targets for validation in 2024. We expect the freshwater methods (version 1) to remain stable with minimal changes incorporated from the validation pilot. For land targets which are currently in beta, as they are also being piloted by the initial group of companies in 2023, we recommend referencing the available beta version ahead of a version 1 which will be published in 2024 once optimizations have been made based on the pilot learnings. 

Note also that when SBTN launches new method versions, the Network will provide a grace period for implementation.

2023 validation pilot objectives and deliverables

SBTN will use the validation pilot to:

  1. Test the validation criteria that is embedded in SBTN methods 
  2. Understand method implementation times for companies, as well as review times for target validators; this includes testing a submission and validation process
  3. Develop further guidance for claims that companies can make once their targets have been validated; see SBTN’s beta Claims Guidance here

This will help SBTN ensure robust, feasible and clear validation criteria, inform a scaling strategy and validation governance model for 2024, and gain best practices insights on transparency and claims.

Expected deliverables are: 

  • SBTN’s Target Validation Criteria document; a useful summary for sustainability managers preparing their submissions for target validation
  • SBTN’s Validation roll-out plan (after distilling lessons learnt from the pilot) 
  • SBTN’s Claims Guidance Version 1; to be used by piloting companies for their approved targets and by other companies in the future

An independent validation team within SBTN will be responsible for validating the targets of the initial group of companies. This team is considered independent as none of them have been part of SBTN’s method development process and will remain separate from any method development activities.

The team will also design validation materials and processes, and document learnings throughout the pilot. 

The validation pilot will help inform best practices for target assurance, for example, on standardization of validations, development of guidelines to ensure rigour and impartiality, creation of policies for documentation, etc. SBTN is committed to follow relevant guidance, such as ISEAL’s guidance for sustainability systems and assurance providers, and explore governance and management structures that could support an alternative validation model for companies submitting targets in 2024.

SBTN publicly invited companies to apply to be part of this group from January 6 – February 3, 2023 and received applications from 55 companies across 26 countries. There were three main criteria for selection: 

  1. Readiness – degree to which company has appropriate data as specified in the methods, technical capacity, understanding of the methods, and C-Suite and internal business support.
  2. Representativeness – in terms of sector, geography of target-setting, value chain position.
  3. Impact on nature.

After a thorough review process, the following companies were selected: 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.

  1. Assess and prioritize their impacts on nature (Steps 1 & 2) and set targets on freshwater and/or land (Step 3) including submitting targets for official validation to the SBTN; helping the SBTN pilot its target submission and validation process. 
  2. Use SBTN’s claims guidance for communicating validated targets and disclosure guidance, and commit to reporting progress on an annual basis. SBTN will publicly disclose progress with respect to target boundary coverage and characterization (e.g. “water quality target in water basin X”) for each company. This is part of Step 2: Prioritize, which allows companies to map their target-setting journey over time, starting setting targets for locations where nature action is urgently needed, until covering all material impacts with targets as determined in Step 1: Assess. 
  3. Begin creating action plans for achieving targets for all targets set. 
  4. Support SBTN with distilling lessons learned from the initial validation phase, which will become an anonymized public report.

This is part of what SBTN hopes to answer with its 2023 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.

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.