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Lessons Learned From Developing SBTs – Part 1:  Laying the Right Foundation

01 April 2019

Anthesis’ Kaylee Shalett and Curtis Harnanan draw from collective experience in developing Science Based Targets across a range of client projects and share their key lessons learned.

There has been a tidal-like force driving companies to set science-based targets (SBTs) and Anthesis has had the privilege to work with over 20 companies from a variety of sectors globally to develop their SBT.

From this work, our team has gathered interesting insights and valuable lessons which we are sharing in a new series on “Lessons Learned”. In the first installment of this series, we share the 4 key learnings for laying a foundation in a successful approach, which will be valuable for any company considering setting an SBT.

  1. Get some perspective

    Before you begin, take time to understand where your business’ leadership is today, their priorities and expectations on setting a long term, ambitious GHG reduction target. Do they need a bottom-up capital expenditure road map that proves that they can get there or is a simple list of conceptual initiatives that point in the right direction enough? This is critical to understand where to put the effort in building up the business case and modeling to evaluate potential targets and flight paths to achieve them.
  1. This is not a solo mission! 

    The work required to set an SBT for your business may seem quite daunting especially if it's only one person (you!) championing this effort. You need to know that setting your SBT will be iterative and will require significant stakeholder engagement to get the required buy-in. We recommend that you assemble an internal team from across your business within key functions (e.g., procurement, logistics, facilities management, accounting, sustainability, etc.).  These stakeholders will not only help with the division the labor but facilitate productive engagement that builds "buy-in" on the final SBT.  Even though there will still be a lot of work involved, you will be grateful for their support!
  1. Start early 

    Clients often request an SBT within 2-3 months, but the actual time required depends on what you hope to gain from the process. For example, it may take longer than 6 months if you want the following from your SBT setting process:
    • The process is a bottom-up effort that gains buy-in from all departments within your organization,
    • Developing your SBT cultivates a culture of sustainability through employee engagement and “green” projects,
    • The experience builds confidence within your organization that you can reach your target.

Aligning time requirements, resources and support with desired outcomes is important, but you may still run into time constraints. For example, the hurdles that may arise in the data collection, particularly with Scope 3, can be very time-consuming. It is important to begin work on Scope 3 and data collection early in the process. Similarly, it is important to engage internal stakeholders early on (e.g., procurement, logistics) as it's likely they are being introduced to the topic for the first time.

  1. Good data matters 

    A robust and ambitious SBT requires an accurate emissions baseline solidly underpinned by good data. This will enable your business to make meaningful and measurable Greenhouse Gas (GHG) reductions. A basic GHG inventory of Scopes 1, 2 & 3 is therefore necessary - without it you will be flying blind. Comprehensive and accurate data is vital for a Scope 1 and 2 SBT, as SBTi only allows up to 5% exclusions of these emissions combined in the inventory and target.  But what about Scope 3? While the aim is to obtain the most accurate picture of your base Scope 3 footprint to set an appropriate SBT, there is some flexibility in doing so.

Dealing with Scope 3 Data: a mini case study 

We can use the approach of our client, Target, to illustrate one way of tackling the scope 3 data challenge. In quantifying its emissions from Purchased Goods & Services, the Target Corporation was only able to piece together a partial picture of these emissions with its supply chain data. To address the gaps, Target utilized a hybrid approach with three inputs of actual and estimated data:

This hybrid process allowed Target the flexibility to compile an “as accurate as possible” total emission for the goods and services it procures, which fortified its validated Scope 3 SBT. The outputs enabled Target to understand where in its supply chain it should focus reduction activities and how best to optimize reduction.

These 4 lessons will give you the right approach for building a successful foundation to your SBT-setting process. Next, we share a follow-on installment in our “Lessons Learned” series: Part 2- Staying on (science-based) “target” where we share the considerations for moving beyond the SBT-setting foundation.

To learn more about SBTs, please refer to our page for SBT Essential Resources.

About the Authors


Curtis Harnanan is a principal consultant at Anthesis with 20 years of experience, which spans developing science-based targets, enterprise and full value chain carbon footprinting, management and reporting; corporate sustainability strategy, benchmarking and reporting; organizational and product sustainability standards; hotspots analysis, and policy analysis.


Kaylee Shalett white background

Kaylee Shalett is a Senior Consultant at Anthesis and specializes in sustainability strategy, climate resilience planning, GHG accounting and analysis, sustainability reporting, and setting science-based targets. She has developed GHG inventories for over 35 clients with expertise in emissions quantification protocols and best practices for calculating Scope 1, 2, and 3 emissions, leveraging her experience to assist companies in setting their science-based targets.

To reach the authors, email Curtis Harnanan and Kaylee Shalett.



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