26 Aug 2021

How to achieve a science-based target (part 4)

Posted in: Reducing emissions

How to achieve a science-based target

science based targets text over an image of fernsPart 4 in a new series

Your boss has asked you for a science-based emissions reduction target – how do you get started? This series of articles will cover what you need to know.

How to achieve a science-based target

Setting an SBT is a big deal. Having achieved this part of the journey, it is worth taking a moment as an organisation to acknowledge it. But as you well know, targets mean nothing without the plans needed to meet them. Achieving your ambition requires two commitments: Action and Accountability.

Making action plans

Firstly, draw up a plan detailing the dedicated resources needed to get innovation happening. The data gathered during the target setting process will help you make the case to senior leadership to allocate resource for your ambition. This is likely going to include reallocating or bringing in new people, alongside capital expenditure on technology.

Importantly, don’t feel like you need to reinvent the wheel. If you have data available for more than just a base year carbon inventory, take a look at your past performance to see what has been possible and where you have had challenges. More organisations are disclosing their footprints and reductions every day, so research what your competitors or industry leaders are doing both here and overseas.

The resources and case studies from SBTi are a great source of ideas. Our Toitū carbon programme members also have a range of reduction resources and ideas included in their membership package.

Project design

Reduction plans should be SMART: specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and timebound. SMART targets make action practical and possible. Many of our greatest sources of carbon are also business costs, so targeting areas like petrol and diesel, air travel, and energy use will help you save money as well as carbon. We recommend allocating those cost savings to a reduction project fund to keep momentum going. NZ Post has done exactly this and you can read more on that here.

We’ve also found that thinking about the different ways emissions can be reduced when designing your reduction plan is helpful.

Graphic showing that you can reduce your overall GHG impact by reducing the activity level (eg by driving less, or using alternative transport), or swapping for a lower GHG intensity option (eg a more efficient vehicle, or alternative fuel, eg biofel, electric or hydrogen).

Figure: Different reduction levers

When we formulated our own plan at Toitū, we looked at finding ways to reduce our Scope 3 travel emissions footprint. The most difficult aspect of this is business travel, as we need to visit and work with our customers at their own premises, wherever this might be around the country or even overseas. We also set targets to reduce impacts from our daily commutes to and from work.

Some of the actions we are taking in this area include:

  • Prioritising remote communication
  • When travel is required, combining multiple trips and choosing lower carbon transport types where possible (eg public bus transport, walking or cycling etc)
  • Flexible working - enabling staff to work from home or commute during off peak times when they can.

In addition, we are planning a tool to compare transport types by carbon, time and cost to make informed decisions when we review travel policy. When our offices are up for renewal, we will also consider proximity and convenience to use decarbonised transport options as a priority objective in that decision process. This would mean making it as easy as possible for staff to bike, train or bus to work.

Our targets require us to be more organised and efficient in how we plan our business travel, in particular. This is not always easy or even achievable on every occasion. While we’re hitting our goals for Scope 1 and 2 emissions, we aren’t quite on track to hit our target to reduce business travel emissions by 60% by 2030. We are making progress where we can, but like all businesses we are reliant on the development of more fuel efficient technologies to help us get there, particularly with regard to air travel.


We believe strongly in organisations committing to developing and publishing your own annual environmental reports, which detail your short and long-term emissions reduction targets and outline the specific actions you intend to undertake to meet them. Measuring and publicly reporting against your SBT every year makes it clear to your staff, customers, regulators and service providers that you are committed to change. And it will keep you accountable to them.

Again, you do not need to break new ground with such reports. There are many examples available online and our own experts are able to advise on the best way to report reduction plans. We already manage reporting for many of our members, such as delivering public disclosure summaries.

As mentioned in Part 2 of this series, there are significant reputational benefits in play here. Being transparent and accountable will help to secure your social license to operate and protect against attacks on your environmental credibility.

We can help

This might all sound rather daunting, but our expert advisors can help you assess where you are now and map out a reduction pathway aligned with climate science. Let us help.

You don’t have to take our word for our expertise – we’re actually the first (and currently only) CDP-accredited science-based targets partner in Australia and New Zealand. We’ve helped many companies set their SBT already, with more underway.

CDP accredited provider

Want to dive deeper on reductions? Read our other reduction stories here or:

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