200 companies now committed to science-based targets

An initiative that calls on companies to cut their carbon footprints in line with scientific studies geared towards a two degrees global warming limit is "far exceeding" it's timeline, with 200 companies now signed up to the scheme - just 18 months after its inception.

Recent approved pledges from Walmart, drinks producer Diageo and Austria’s largest electricity provider Verbund AG has seen the Science Based Targets initiative reach a 200 company milestone. Over the last year, the rate of growth for companies joining the scheme equates to two new pledges each week.

Established through a partnership between climate groups CDP, WWF and the UN Global Compact, the Science Based Targets initiative calls on businesses to revamp corporate climate goals in-line with global climate commitments established under the Paris Agreement.

“The momentum behind the Science Based Targets initiative proves that companies are ready, willing and able to take serious climate action,” UN Global Compact’s chief of environment Lila Karbassi said.

“Now, with the Paris Agreement in force and the 2030 deadline for the Sustainable Development Goals, we urgently need companies everywhere to rise to the climate challenge, set ambitious targets aligned with science and become leaders of the low-carbon economy.”

Businesses that commit to the scheme have two years to set science-based targets, which will be reviewed by external “experts” to see if the goals comply with set criteria. Of the 200 companies – which represent an estimated $4.8trn in market value – signed up to the initiative, 26 have had targets approved, including Coca Cola Enterprises, General Mills, Dell and Procter & Gamble.

Of the new approved pledges, Walmart had committed to reducing absolute scope 1 and 2 emissions by 18% by 2025 against a 2015. Because science-based targets also call on businesses to reduce emissions in the value chain, Walmart will work to reduce upstream and downstream scope 3 emissions by one billion tonnes by 2030.

“Walmart is the first retailer with an emissions-reduction plan approved by the Science Based Targets initiative, in alignment with the Paris Agreement in December 2015,” Walmart’s chief executive Doug McMillon said. “We want to make sure Walmart is a company that our associates and customers are proud of – and that we are always doing right by them and by the communities they live in.”

Diageo – which has reduced in-house emissions by 38% since 2007 – has committed to reducing scope 1 and 2 emissions by 50% by 2020 from the 2007 baseline. The company will work to reduce total value chain emissions of its products by 30% in the same timeframe. Verbund AG has set a 90% reduction goal for 2021 – against a 2011 baseline – for scope 1,2 and 3 emissions, with an overall aim to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050.

Business barrage

The 200th company to officially commit was South African-based private hospital group Mediclinic Southern Africa. The hospital group joins Kellogg, Sony, PepsiCo and the other 196 companies, which span 33 countries and account for around 627 million metric tonnes of emissions annually.

Just six months ago, the initiative passed the 150 company milestone, after pledges were received from 41 businesses including Ben & Jerry’s and Toyota. The initiative was forged at the Paris climate change agreement last December, after growing concerns that businesses could set timelines and targets of their own choosing.

The science-based milestone arrives just days after more than 360 US-based businesses and investors, including Ikea, Unilever, Mars and Nike, reaffirmed their commitment to the Paris Agreement, and called on president-elect Donald Trump to do the same.

One of the founders of the Science Based Targets initiative, CDP, has been documenting business-related climate disclosures for years. Ahead of its 2016 annual report which tracks corporate progress on climate action, CDP’s chief executive Paul Simpson told edie that “a story of risk and opportunity” was emerging for businesses that are yet to modify their operational plans to account for climate change.

Matt Mace

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