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How Long Can Companies Afford to Neglect Setting Science-Based Climate Targets?
This blog post was prepared with contributions from Vincent Hoen, Jeroen Scheepmaker, and Frank Stern.
During the last 3 years, more than 300 companies have signed up to participate in the Science Based Targets initiative. The combined revenue of these companies runs into the billions of US dollars and includes high ranking Fortune 500 companies like Walmart, HP, CVS Health, and Procter & Gamble. Why are these companies committing to science-based targets? Are they willing to publicly disclose their emissions and commit to reducing their environmental impact?
Increased awareness of environmental responsibility, especially following the Paris Agreement, has increased overall consumer, city, and business willingness to act. The corporate sector is embracing science-based targets as an instrument to provide objective guidance on how to react to increasing pressure to have a credible climate strategy. Science-based targets show the fair contribution of any company to limit global warming to 2° or even 1.5° Celsius.
In addition, science-based targets help companies do the following:
- Mitigate climate risks and ensure investor acceptance.
- Meet climate disclosure recommendations (e.g., from the Financial Stability Board).
- Improve business relationships.
- Become a more attractive employer.
Let’s look at these points in a greater detail.
Science-Based Targets Become Part of Overall Credit Rating
Globally, well-accepted rating instruments such as the Dow Jones Sustainability Indices and CDP Climate Leadership Index are integrating science-based targets into their ratings and awarding credits for companies having an approved science-based target. Not committing to science-based targets can lead to lower credit ratings and less client and investor attractiveness.
Science-Based Targets Will Be Part of Recommended Climate Risk Disclosure
The Financial Stability Board’s Task Force on Climate-Related Financial Disclosures (FSB-TCFD) recommends companies perform scenario analysis on their portfolios to assess climate-related risks and opportunities. Setting science-based targets is the tool for meeting these recommendations, as science-based targets are based on the leading climate scenarios of the International Energy Agency. They provide key insights into the required transformations for a company and a direct link to climate risks and opportunities. By setting science-based targets, companies are also well-prepared for upcoming policies that make a climate impact disclosure mandatory.
Science-Based Targets Result in Improved Business Relationships
An important trend is companies not only focusing on their own operations but also on value chain impacts. For instance, Walmart’s Project Gigaton implemented a suppliers program to achieve its climate objective and science-based target. A solid climate strategy with a science-based target ensures that companies act in line with the demands of the purchasing departments of supply chain partners. Companies can develop more intimate client relationships and secure longer-term contracts when a science-based target is in place.
Sustainability Increases Employer Attractiveness
Last but not least, it is known that companies with a strong climate strategy will be more attractive not only for clients and investors, but also for (new) employees. Young professionals have a strong preference for companies with a green image. A science-based target is a great instrument to drive an ambitious sustainability program.
Benefits of Science-Based Targets
Science-based targets are being embraced on a large scale by corporate leaders because they provide the perfect framework for a credible climate and energy strategy. These targets are at the heart of climate-related risk disclosures and will continue to have an increasing effect on companies’ credit ratings. In addition, science-based targets ensure soft benefits, including communicative value, improved supplier relations, and a more attractive working environment. Acting now allows companies to join the ranks of sustainability leaders and show shareholders, investors, clients, suppliers, and employees that the company has a credible response to prevent climate change.