Nike and other major apparel firms commit to Science Based Targets initiative

A surge of clothing companies including Nike and Levi Strauss have all committed to set emission reduction targets through the Science Based Targets initiative, pushing the number of companies pledged to the scheme beyond 300.

Announced as part of Climate Week, which commences in New York today (18 September), six apparel companies have agreed to align their emission targets with the goals of the Paris Agreement to limit global warming to well below 2C. Nike, Levi Strauss, Gap, Guess, Eileen Fisher and VF Corporation have all signed up to the Science Based Targets initiative this week.

In 2017, more than 90 companies have joined the initiative, which now has more than 300 members. Other new companies that have committed to the initiative recently include Cummins, Olam, Telefónica and Veolia.

UN Global Compact’s chief of programmes Lila Karbassi said: “As more and more companies see the advantages of setting science-based targets, the transition towards a low-carbon economy is becoming a reality.

“Businesses now working towards ambitious targets are seeing benefits like increased innovation, cost savings, improved investor confidence and reduced regulatory uncertainty. This is becoming the new ‘normal’ in the business world, proving that a low-carbon economy is not only vital for consumers and the planet, but also for future-proofing growth.” 

The new apparel firms signed up to the initiative will have to take steps to embed the ethos of science-based targets amongst suppliers. More than 90% of apparel brand emissions are located in the value chain.

The story behind the science

To date, companies that have joined the Science Based Targets initiative represent around $6.5trn in market value and are responsible for 750 million metric tonnes of CO2 emissions annually. The companies span 35 countries, and the US now has 50 firms committed to the initiative – more than any other nation.

The involvement of US businesses in the initiative builds on research by The Climate Group, which found that the action of US states, cities and businesses could “significantly mitigate” the impact of the US decision to withdraw from the Paris Agreement. US companies that have committed to science-based targets are accountable for 166 million metric tonnes of CO2 emissions annually.

The Science Based Targets initiative, which works as a partnership between CDP, WRI, WWF and the UN Global Compact, reviews business emission targets, and only ones that meet strict criteria are approved. So far 72 science-based targets have been approved through the initiative, including 41 this year. Recent approvals include M&S, Tesco, Mars, HP and Kering.

Research from Business in the Community (BITC) found that the adoption of science-based-targets and the engaging with the supply chain are two of the biggest challenges facing sustainability professionals in the next decade.

Matt Mace

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