Setting Near-Term Science-Based Targets: A Comprehensive Guide

Setting Near-Term Science-Based Targets: A Comprehensive Guide
Photo by Annie Spratt / Unsplash

In the race against climate change, setting ambitious yet achievable targets is crucial. But how do companies ensure their goals are both aggressive and grounded in science? Dive into this guide on setting near-term Science-Based Targets (SBTs) and discover the roadmap to a sustainable future.

The Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi) has laid out specific criteria that companies must adhere to for their targets to be recognized. These criteria are essential for ensuring that the targets set by companies are in line with the latest climate science and best practices. The SBTi criteria for Near-term Targets are designed to guide companies in setting targets that are both ambitious and achievable.

Key Insights:

  1. GHG Emissions Inventory and Target Boundary:
    • Targets should be submitted at the parent or group level, not the subsidiary level.
    • Targets must cover all relevant GHGs as required by the GHG Protocol Corporate Standard.
    • Companies must cover company-wide scope 1 and scope 2 emissions.
    • If a company's relevant scope 3 emissions are 40% or more of total scope 1, 2, and 3 emissions, they must be included in near-term science-based targets.
  2. Method Validity:
    • Targets must be modeled using the latest approved methods and tools by the initiative.
    • Targets modeled using previous versions can only be submitted for validation within 6 months of the publication of the revised method.
  3. Emissions Accounting Requirements:
    • Companies should disclose whether they are using a location- or market-based accounting approach for scope 2 emissions.
    • A scope 3 inventory covering all emissions sources must be completed.
    • CO2 emissions from bioenergy and associated land use emissions should be reported and included in the target boundary.
    • Carbon credits should not be counted as emission reductions toward the progress of companies' near-term targets.

Industry-Specific Guidance

The SBTi recognizes that different industries have unique challenges and opportunities when it comes to reducing emissions. As a result, they provide industry-specific guidance to help companies within certain sectors set targets that are both relevant and impactful.

Example: Chemical Industry

  • Reducing process emissions from chemical reactions.
  • Transitioning to renewable energy sources for high-temperature processes.
  • Implementing carbon capture and storage technologies.
  • Enhancing the efficiency of feedstock use and promoting the use of bio-based or recycled feedstocks.

Other Industries with Specific Guidance:

  • Oil and Gas: Addressing emissions from extraction, refining, and end-use combustion.
  • Electric Utilities: Transitioning to low-carbon energy sources and enhancing grid efficiency.
  • Automotive: Promoting electric vehicles and improving fuel efficiency.
  • Food and Beverage: Addressing emissions from agriculture, deforestation, and waste.
  • Textiles and Apparel: Promoting sustainable materials and reducing emissions from manufacturing processes.
  • Pulp and Paper: Enhancing sustainable forestry practices and reducing process emissions.
  • Metals and Mining: Addressing emissions from extraction and refining processes.
  • Construction and Building Materials: Promoting sustainable materials and enhancing energy efficiency in buildings.
  • Transport: Reducing emissions from logistics, shipping, and air travel.

Companies are encouraged to refer to the SBTi's industry-specific guidance to ensure their targets are aligned with best practices for their sector.

Consistency is Key: Companies must align their organizational boundary with the boundary utilized in their financial accounting and reporting procedures. This ensures transparency and accuracy in reporting.


Setting science-based targets is a crucial step for companies to align their strategies with global efforts to combat climate change. By adhering to the SBTi criteria, companies can ensure that their targets are robust, achievable, and in line with the latest scientific understanding of what is needed to prevent the worst impacts of global warming.

SBTi Criteria and Recommendations for Near-Term Targets Version 5.1, April 2023

Want to Dive Deeper?
For more insights and real-world examples on Science-Based Targets, challenges companies face, and the broader context of global climate goals, explore our collection of related articles on Scope 3 Collective's Science Based Targets initiative page.

Science-Based Targets and Suppliers: Aligning Business with the Paris Agreement
Science-Based Targets (SBTs) are not just corporate commitments; they’re a collaborative effort involving every link in the business chain, especially suppliers. Dive into the world of SBTs and discover how they’re reshaping the business landscape in alignment with global climate goals.
The Net Zero Standard: A 2023 Imperative for Companies
As “net zero” becomes a corporate buzzword, the SBTi’s Net Zero Standard emerges as the gold standard for genuine climate action. Discover why adopting this standard is a 2023 imperative for businesses