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Here's the timeline for SBTi’s corporate net-zero update

The standards-setting organization plans to address stakeholder feedback, including updates to climate science and challenges related to Scope 3 target setting.


Image via Shutterstock/T. Schneider

The Science Based Targets Initiative this week published the timeline for a widely anticipated, "major" revision to its Corporate Net-Zero Standard, set to take effect in 2025.

SBTI is required to review its standards every two to five years, under its governance structure. The net-zero revision comes amid widespread debate about SBTi’s mission and a backlash over a controversial plan to let companies count certain "environmental attribute certificates," such as carbon credits, toward emissions reduction goals.

4 main revision objectives

The revision is eagerly anticipated by corporate sustainability professionals and is based on feedback from stakeholders, including corporations frustrated with slow validation times for proposed targets and the challenge of setting Scope 3 commitments, which are difficult for companies to address directly. 

SBTi’s update will address these areas, according to a project timeline published May 9:

  • Alignment with the latest climate science and best practices, particularly the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Sixth Assessment report and recommendations on corporate target-setting published by the United Nations High-Level Expert Group.
  • New guidance for Scope 3 targets. 
  • Tools for assessing and reporting on progress, including how companies can raise their ambition over time and how they’ll be able to use carbon credits and other certificates to discuss progress.
  • Clarity on how other standards feed into the Corporate Net-Zero Standard, including those from both SBTi and other relevant organizations. "SBTI recognizes the value of working to harmonize with other actors in this ecosystem," the organization said.

"Any changes to the standard will be made after a rigorous process of research, consultation, pilot testing, approval by the Technical Council and adoption by the SBTi Board of Trustees," SBTi said in a separate May 9 blog communicating the timeline.

Feedback welcome, but hold the complaints

Another factor affecting the timing of the revision: Many companies with validated science-based targets — although not necessarily net-zero ones — are "approaching the end of their first target cycle in 2025," SBTi said.

SBTi will share a number of interim deliverables, along the timeline noted below. 

SBTI net-zero revision timeline

Source: Science Based Targets initiative

Of particular interest for corporations:

  • (Q2 2024) A report on SBTi’s research on the "effectiveness" of different environmental attribute certificates including those for emissions reductions, electricity and commodities. The organization said it won’t offer an analysis of the evidence at this time.
  • (July) A discussion paper that will outline principles for Scope 3 net-zero target setting
  • (July) SBTi’s assessment of the debate over carbon offsets and other environmental attribute certificates, along with an independent, third-party review of the topic.

As of April 2, more than 800 companies had validated, science-based emissions reduction targets under the current Corporate Net Zero Standard. Three thousand were planning to submit plans for validation at the time. Some high-profile companies have opted out of the current corporate net-zero standard, including Amazon and Intel, and more than 200 in March had their status changed to "commitment removed" for failing to submit their targets in time.

SBTi will solicit feedback on its proposals and ideas as it works toward creating a public draft of the standard revision before the end of the year. (There’s a form for doing so here.) Once the full draft is published, SBTi will conduct public consultations for a minimum of 60 days.

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