Science Based Targets: what, so what & now what?

Back in 2015, 196 countries agreed a deal – the Paris Agreement – to tackle climate change. The aim is for those countries to work together to limit the increase in global temperatures to no more than 2°C, in line with what science tells us is required to avoid the most catastrophic effects of a changing climate.

Now global, multi-national agreements don’t often mean very much to the day-to-day activities of companies and the people that work for them, and the Paris Agreement might feel no different. But the reality is that what happened in Paris could have profound implications for you and your business.

So since 2015, companies around the world have been signing up to ‘Science Based Targets’, pledging that they will play their part in meeting the goals set in Paris. Under the Science Based Targets initiative, they are required to take steps to significantly reduce both their own emissions and make ambitious efforts to work with their supply chains to cut the impacts of the products and services they procure.

As an example of this, one of the first property companies worldwide to set a Science Based Target, the UK’s Land Securities, made the following pledge as part of its commitment:

“…The company also commits to engage with all main contractors to set science-based targets by 2023, so that the embodied carbon from key materials can be reduced in line with what is required for a 2 degrees pathway.”

That single sentence carries huge implications for their suppliers. First of all, it makes it clear that they will need and want to work with contractors that are taking ambitious action on climate change. Secondly those contractors will, in turn, be expected to use products that have a reduced impact on the environment.

Here in Australia, a lack of Federal Government action on climate change may have left companies feeling less pressure to change the way they do business. But in the absence of political leadership, there is no shortage of business action. Companies such as Investa and Dexus have officially confirmed their intent to set Science Based Targets, as have the likes of Laing O’Rourke, Ferrovial and Acciona. Behind the scenes, plenty of others are doing the same, either setting their own, equivalent targets (e.g. Transurban), or doing the groundwork to publish official targets at a later date.

It’s only a matter of time, then, that the commitments set by these organisations start to filter down through the supply chain, to smaller contractors and product manufacturers alike. It doesn’t seem too big a leap to imagine a point at which it will become impossible to win work – at least with the biggest clients and on the most iconic projects – if your company isn’t doing its bit on climate change and setting clear, public goals. As well as showing that we practice as we preach, the idea of developing our own Science Based Target here at Edge was about making sure we can meet the ever more rigorous standards our clients are setting for their suppliers.

Transitioning to a low-carbon economy will require an unprecedented level of collaboration between Governments and businesses. The good news is that through organisations such as the Supply Chain Sustainability School of Australia, there is plenty of support for organisations such as yours to work together as they make their businesses fit for the future.

The School will be collaborating with Edge Environment and hosts Laing O’Rourke to hold a free breakfast event about Science Based Targets on 11 September 2018 – tickets at: https://www.eventbrite.com.au/e/science-based-targets-what-so-what-and-now-what-tickets-47150847454 

This article was originally published on the Australians Supply Chain Sustainability School’s website

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