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Lessons Learned From Developing SBTs – Part 2: Staying on (science-based) "target"

09 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 prior installment of this series, Part 1: Laying the Right Foundation, we began by sharing the 4 key learnings for laying a foundation in a successful approach. We continue here by sharing the next 4 key lessons to ensure a successful progress in developing your SBT.

  1. Focus on what is ‘material’ and don't sweat the small stuff – Clients often ask whether they will need to collect data for all 15 Scope 3 Categories. The short answer is "no". You can prioritize efforts in a few steps:
    • Identify which of the 15 categories are relevant to your business via a screening exercise
    • Quickly develop a high-level directional estimate of your relevant Scope 3 emissions using spend data and Environmentally Extended Input-Output analysis (EEIO) to understand the relative contributions of each. The most significant contributors are material to your business and will require deeper analysis with more accurate data
    • Gather data necessary to accurately quantify and more fully analyze material Scope 3 categories.

EEIO analysis is adequate for categories deemed less material, but if you already have data collected for these categories, then you should use it. Some businesses may develop their Scope 3 footprinting solely on EEIO analysis, but this is not an option if your business wants a robust SBT that will result in meaningful reductions. While the topic is science-based, the work itself should be viewed as more art than science! Data precision is not the ultimate pathway forward but making sure that your data is pointing the in the right direction should be.

  1. Select your approach carefully - SBTi currently provides 3 different approaches for developing your SBT and guidance for each. However, deciding on an appropriate approach for your business early in the process is important. Not all approaches may be applicable and depending on your business, only one might be suitable.  For example, the Sectoral Decarbonization Approach (SDA) may be most relevant if your business is firmly within one if the specific sectors in the tool (i.e., transport, industries like pulp & paper, chemicals, aluminum, iron & steel or cement, and power generation and other energy).  When in doubt, keep it simple by using the absolute contraction approach, at greater than a 1.67% year-on-year reduction to be at the minimum for 2°C.
  1. SBTi validation should not be a show stopper - You can still set a reduction target, fully aligned with climate science and SBTi's criteria, even without official SBTi validation. While the decision to validate your SBT will be guided by your business’ priorities, electing to forego validation should not detract from efforts to set an SBT and implement actions to mitigate your GHG emissions. A few clients in the Financial and Insurance sectors have already developed SBTs without SBTi validation and are fully committed to the necessary actions to achieving these targets.
  1. Be creative - When it comes to achieving reductions against your SBTs, there is no ‘silver bullet’. Scope 3 categories - 1 (Purchased Goods & Services), 10 (Processing of Sold Products) and 11 (Use of Sold Products) – may require an array of initiatives to achieve required reductions. SBTi does not allow the use of offsets as a means of achieving SBTs, so creative thinking is crucial to your strategy.

If you follow these lessons, you can experience the following co-benefits of a successful SBT process:

  • It is an excellent exercise for elevating the sustainability team within your organization;
  • It helps to gain buy-in on a new science-based target that will dovetail into an ambitious corporate strategy;
  • It results in an opportunity to build a “green team” from the people that attend the SBT setting workshops;
  • It can be a great way to weave together what were previously independent activities within your company (e.g., existing supply chain engagement, facility management’s existing emission reduction programs, leveraging your CDP efforts via Supply Chain requests for data collection, sustainable procurement standards); and
  • Your business’ various activities can live ‘under the umbrella’ of your SBT and serve as an actionable corporate sustainability strategy.


In the next installment in our series we will share technical lessons learned to help you “get under the hood” of your SBT process.

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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