The world’s first scientific targets for nature have been published by the Science Based Targets Network (SBTN). SBTN is an initiative focused on transforming economic systems and protecting global common goods – air, water, land, biodiversity and oceans. It brings together experts from more than 60 NGOs, business associations and consulting firms.

The goals for nature published by SBTN enable companies to take integrated action to protect freshwater, land, ocean, biodiversity and climate. The targets are being introduced in the context of a scientific consensus that emphasizes that achieving the ambition of limiting global warming to 1.5°C is not possible without countering the destruction of nature and working to restore lost ecosystems. The new science-based targets for nature provide companies with guidance on how to holistically assess and prioritize their environmental impacts and prepare to set targets, starting with concern for fresh water and land and climate. The first edition of Scientific Goals for Nature also directly supports biodiversity, ensuring that companies contribute to the preservation and restoration of ecosystems.

The submitted targets for nature include integrated technical guidelines that allow companies to assess and prioritize their impact on freshwater quality and quantity, as well as land targets for ecosystem protection and restoration. This is to reduce negative impacts and improve beneficial impacts on nature and people within the direct operations of companies and supply chains.

Scientific goals for nature – how to start setting them

Setting, implementing and tracking progress on scientific nature goals is a five-step process. The first version developed detailed technical guidance for the three initial phases, and additional guidance, relating to the final phases, will appear in 2024. More detailed information is provided below:

  • evaluation

At the first stage, the company determines which environmental impacts it is most likely to have to address with targets and which aspects of the business are of the highest priority. This stage is essential. Regardless of sector, geographic location or level of sustainability experience, almost all companies should be able to complete this step and meet the required validation criteria to move to the next stage. Details of the evaluation can be lifted from the SBTN website.

  • prioritization

In the second step, the company uses the information from the first step. Analyzing all parts of the value chain and pressures identified as significant, it determines which science-based targets to set, which locations and types of economic activities to include within the target boundaries, and where to act first to effectively mitigate the most significant negative impacts on nature and to increase the potential for positive impacts. Technical guidance on prioritization can be lifted from the SBTN website.

  • setting and presenting goals

Once a company has assessed and ranked the elements of its impact on nature (according to the technical guidance in the previous steps), it will gain knowledge of the issues for which it should set targets.

The technical guidelines provide detailed methodologies for setting freshwater and terrestrial targets and partially address the topic of biodiversity. Climate targets are being set under the Science Based Targets initiative, and those for the oceans will be available in 2024.

  • setting targets for freshwater

Science-based freshwater targets focus on two key issues: surface and groundwater abstraction and nitrogen and phosphorus pollution of freshwater.

These pressures are the first to be included in scientific freshwater targets due to their importance to most businesses (freshwater use) and their role in specific sectors and environmental issues (freshwater pollution). Together, they are key pressures that are driving nature loss around the world.

  • setting land targets

Objectives based on earth science are intended to encourage companies to act at a high level, actions necessary to achieve natural goals in land systems. Examples include halting the conversion of natural ecosystems, freeing up agricultural land for natural ecosystem restoration, and improving the ecological integrity of landscapes, including farmland, to improve the structure of ecosystem composition and function. The first land targets are in the preliminary stages of implementation and have undergone internal consultations with experts from industry, academia and NGOs. This was followed by an expert panel and public consultation. The goals are currently being implemented through a pilot program by an initial group of companies. This will enable lessons to be learned and optimizations to be made before the implementation of the final version, which is scheduled for publication in early 2024.

  • Biodiversity within the framework of scientific nature objectives

The main goal of SBTN’s work is to mitigate biodiversity loss by getting companies to protect, restore and sustainably use natural ecosystems. It is important, therefore, that all actions taken under the goals effectively support biodiversity. The first version of the guidelines addresses some of the dominant drivers of diversity loss in ecosystems. A detailed analysis will be published later in the year. It will also include plans for future releases.

  • setting climate targets

The technical guidance for assessing and prioritizing environmental impacts also addresses climate. As a result, all companies contributing significantly to greenhouse gas emissions are expected to set a climate target through the Science Based Targets (SBTi) initiative and seek to minimize or even eliminate the problem. Companies that have already collected data and set climate goals are one step ahead.

Technical guidance on setting and presenting goals can be lifted from the SBTN website.

  • actions implementing the goals for nature

Detailed guidelines for this phase will be provided in 2024. Currently, the SBTN’s interweb site offers an interactive diagram showing examples of what companies can do to implement the set goals for nature.

  • monitoring the implemented measures

Measurement, Reporting and Verification (MRV) activities are essential throughout the SBTN determination process:

  1. When measuring the impact on nature (step 1),
  2. To prioritize (step 2),
  3. to set and present goals (step 3),
  4. for action under the SBT for nature (step 4).

Detailed MRV guidelines for companies wishing to implement scientific targets for nature are currently being developed. Their use will formalize corporate reporting requirements (e.g., to SBTN or other parties), as well as share results obtained through monitoring (e.g., via satellite or other technologies) and through verification (e.g., through third-party entities engaged by companies to assess their progress).

World’s first scientific targets for nature – pilot program

Currently, a group of seventeen global companies, selected for their readiness and suitability, are preparing to set their first scientific targets for nature. These companies include: AB InBev, Alpro (part of Danone), Bel, Carrefour, Corbion, GSK, H&M Group, Hindustan Zinc Limited, Holcim Group, Kering, L’OCCITANE Group, LVMH, Nestlé, Neste Corporation, Suntory Holdings Limited, Tesco and UPM. Full implementation at all companies will take place in early 2024.

For more information on the world’s first science-based targets for nature, visit the Science Based Targets Network website.

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