Why setting “Science Based” emission reduction targets is important and how you can do it too…

One of the key tasks I wanted to get cracking on with when taking on the role of Chief Sustainability Officer was to ensure MSQ joined the growing list of companies that have set formal Science Based Targets (SBTs) for the reduction of their carbon footprint. And I’m delighted to announce that we’re now doing just that!  

But what does that mean, what are the targets, why are SBTs important, and, significantly, how can other companies do the same?  

Let me pick up that last one first. Eschewing article conventions and starting with the call to action, just in case you don’t get to the end of this piece! If your company hasn’t yet measured your carbon footprint, worked out where or how to offset that footprint, or set reduction targets for your emissions (Science Based or otherwise) then we’ve put all of our learnings together (from our work over the years but also the workshops that I’ve run on this subject for over 50 BIMA members) in a free-to-access course titled simply “How to measure, reduce and offset your company’s carbon footprint”.  

Click here to learn more about the details of the 6-week (18 hour) course on the FutureLearn platform.  

So, what are Science Based Targets?

You’ll often hear larger companies talking about setting their carbon reduction targets “in-line with science-based targets”. What they are basically referring to is that their targets are in-line with keeping global warming well below 2 degrees (and preferably to 1.5 degrees), compared to pre-industrial levels. This is what most major economies signed-up to in 2015 at COP21 in Paris and is famously known as “The Paris Agreement”. 

So far over 1000 companies have had their SBTs approved, with over 750 of those setting (as we have) the more ambitious targets to keep warming in-line with a 1.5oC rise in temperature (called “Business Ambition for 1.5oC”). Whilst that’s a great start, for me this is actually a rather terrifyingly low number. In fact, there are currently less than 100 professional services companies that have set “Business Ambition for 1.5oC” targets. I hope that, through resources like the course we have developed, many more companies will be able to see how relatively straight forward this can be. 

Why are SBTs important?

Lots of companies claim to be “carbon neutral” or, like us, “carbon negative”. But in both cases that just means that you are measuring your carbon footprint (which is a great start!) and are then using official offsetting to balance that (or, in the case of carbon negative, to more than balance that).  

So whilst offsetting means supporting some fantastic projects across the world, it’s not a scalable solution to climate change. The reduction piece is critical. In fact, the term “Net Zero” is still very mis-understood (because it sounds like it might be the same as “Carbon Neutral”, which it’s not!). Net Zero requires us to reduce our entire carbon footprint as low as is technologically possible, and then only offset the small, remaining part (until we can one day, hopefully get to absolute zero). Part of the online course that we developed helps to explain a lot of these important terms. 

As ‘reduction’ becomes critical, SBTs mean that there has been formal validation of your reduction targets to the degree that they are accurate and reasonable and not just a pledge that is being made for marketing purposes.  

What are our targets?

Earlier this year we announced our short-term target of halving our emissions on a per head basis by 2024. Our SBTs go further than this. Our targets are: 

  1. To reduce our Scope 1 and 2 emissions by 100% by 2026.  
  2. To reduce our Scope 3 emissions by 70% on a per head basis by 2030 (from our 2019 base year). 
  3. To commit to 50% of our suppliers (by spend) having their own Science Based Targets by 2026.  

The official wording can be seen on our SBT Certification here. 

How to get started

If you have already measured your carbon footprint but haven’t yet set the reduction targets, then the simple step-by-step guide on the SBTi website is a good place to start. If your company hasn’t measured their carbon footprint then a reminder again that our free course might be a great place to start.  

Many companies end up spending money with sustainability consultants. And whilst that can be useful if you are short on time or your business has a very complex footprint, you might be surprised just how quick and easy it is to get started for many businesses.  

We’ll keep you posted on our progress towards our reduction targets. Good luck on your own sustainability journeys