Science-based targets top choice for sustainability leaders, edie survey reveals

The adoption of science-based targets to drive climate action is continuing to move rapidly up the corporate agenda, with more than half of sustainability leaders either beginning to apply or fully embedding the methodology within their organisation.

Science-based emissions reduction targets are a crucial step in the global effort to prevent the worst consequences of climate change

Science-based emissions reduction targets are a crucial step in the global effort to prevent the worst consequences of climate change

That’s one of the key findings of an edie survey conducted on members of the edie Leaders Club – an exclusive, membership-based group of professionals that are responsible for leading their company’s sustainability strategy – as part of our Sustainability Leadership Month of editorial content.

The survey, conducted between 25 November and 8 December 2016, asked edie Leaders Club members to what extent their company is using global frameworks and mechanisms such as the Paris Agreement, Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), science-based targets, carbon pricing and natural capital accounting to drive their sustainability planning, measurement and strategy.

More than half (55%) of the survey’s 31 respondents said they were either beginning to apply science-based targets, or that the methodology was already fully embedded in their strategy. Just over a third (35%) or respondents said the adoption of science-based targets was on their radar, while less than 10% said they were not considering them at this stage.

The adoption of science-based targets to reduce emissions in line with the level of decarbonisation required to keep global temperature increase below 2C is seen as a critical step in the low-carbon transition, and is especially relevant following the recent enforcement of the Paris Agreement on climate change. The Science Based Targets initiative - a partnership between CDP, UN Global Compact, WRI and WWF – last month reported that more than 200 companies, representing an estimated $4.8trn in market value, have now signed up to the scheme, just 18 months after its launch.

Interestingly, the majority (81%) of the edie Leaders Club survey respondents to the same question said they were not yet considering natural capital accounting, with just a single respondent stating that they had fully embedded natural capital methodology in their strategy. Similarly, the majority (71%) of respondents were not yet considering carbon pricing, while just two respondents said they had fully embedded a carbon pricing mechanism within their organisation.

Elsewhere in the survey, 39% of edie Leaders Club members said that the Paris Agreement – which sets out a global action plan to limit global warming to well-below 2C – “is not strong enough to get us where we need to be”. Just one respondent said they were confident that the Paris Agreement will keep us well-below the 2C threshold, while the majority (58%) said it was too soon to tell.

In terms of the ongoing uncertainty surrounding Brexit and its impact on the development or delivery of sustainability strategies, three-quarters (74%) of edie Leaders Club members said Brexit has had no impact so far. The remaining quarter (26%) said Brexit has had a negative impact on their sustainability strategy, while zero respondents said Brexit has had a positive impact.

When asked to tell us in their own words what the biggest challenge facing sustainability at a global level is, uncertainty surrounding Donald Trump’s US presidency was the most commonly-cited answer. And when asked what the biggest challenge their organisation faces in driving sustainability forward, employee engagement and behaviour change was the most commonly-cited response, particularly persuading or encouraging leadership to invest in sustainability initiatives.

The vast majority of the edie Leaders Club survey respondents (87%) were working in large organisations with more than 1,000 employees.

The edie Leaders Club, sponsored by Smartest Energy and Cranfield University, is an exclusive, member-only group of sustainability professionals who enjoy an annual programme of free, informal peer-to-peer networking events designed to foster conversation, collaboration and a step-change in embedding sustainability in business. To submit your application to become a member, click here.


edie's Sustainability Leadership month and Sustainability Leaders Forum

The month of December sees edie shift the editorial spotlight from skills to leadership, ahead of the Sustainability Leaders Forum in London on 25-26 January 2017 (find out more and register to attend here).

Taking the conversation beyond the operational, this month is dedicated to the leading edge of sustainability thinking. We’ll meet the organisations and the individuals that are driving the agenda forward, discuss the hot topics that are keeping the UK’s chief sustainability officer's awake and night, and showcase some of the suppliers and technologies that are driving the green industrial revolution.

Read all of edie's sustainability leadership content here.


Luke Nicholls


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