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Why Setting Science Based Targets Matters

wind turbineCorporate sustainability reporting and disclosure to climate organizations like CDP is a must-do for companies — 81 percent of S&P 500 companies published these reports in 2015, up from just 20 percent five years ago.

Some enterprising companies, however, are taking their environmental efforts to the next level and setting science based targets: greenhouse gas emissions reduction goals in line with what scientists say is necessary to keep global warming below the 2-degree threshold.

“It’s definitely a growing movement in the mindset of many companies,” said Alicia Godlove, FirstCarbon Solutions sustainability project manager. FirstCarbon Solutions is an environmental sustainability consulting services provider and a long-time scoring partner for CDP. An increasing number of its clients are looking for help establishing science based targets, FirstCarbon Sollutions executives say.

“Especially with the Paris agreement, science-based targets are quickly becoming the standard,” Godlove added.

The Science Based Targets initiative, a joint effort of CDP, the UN Global Compact, World Resources Institute and World Wildlife Fund, works with companies to set emissions targets and only approves those that meet its strict criteria. The four have said they aim to establish science based target setting as mainstream corporate practice. This year, CDP added science based targets as a component of scoring for companies that disclose emissions each year.

At last count 176 companies including Ikea, Unilever, Kellogg, Walmart, Dell and Enel have committed to setting science based targets. Of these, 19 companies have targets in place that have been certified by the initiative’s experts. The initiative’s organizers say companies have been joining at a rate of two per week since its launch last year.

“These companies are at the forefront of the global transition to a low-carbon, climate resilient economy,” CDP CEO Paul Simpson said. “They are showing that all types of companies — including carbon-intensive industries such as energy, chemicals and steel — can get on a low carbon path. Science based targets help drive innovation, reduce costs and enhance profitability. Companies that set them gain long-term competitive advantage and safeguard their future prosperity.”

Companies that have had their science based emissions reduction targets approved say setting these emissions goals have benefited their business on several levels, from improving their relationships with regulators to driving innovation. Kellogg, for example, says it has seen reductions in energy use as a direct benefit of setting science based targets. The food company now has a fuel cell at a waffle-making facility in San Jose generating half of the facility’s electricity.

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