New science based targets focus on emissions + employees

New science based targets focus on emissions + employees

Is it time for The Big Pivot?

The Pivot Goals website was launched in 2012 in concert with Andrew Winston’s book The Big Pivot*. The world’s largest and leading companies’ environmental, social, and governance (ESG) goals are researched and presented on the site (for free). These goals are categorized into 29 ESG issues and one can search and download various goal-related data including the stage of the value chain.

The Big Pivot puts forth ten pivots that companies need to do to authentically address sustainability in their strategies, operations, and reporting. One of the ten pivots is Setting Science Based Targets. At that time in 2012, the Science Based Targets Initiative (SBTI) was just launching and state of play for setting an ESG goal in line with science was nascent.

Over the past 11 years, we have witnessed great growth in ESG goal setting across the following:

  • The number and percentage of companies setting ESG goals
  • The number of ESG goals per company
  • The spread of ESG goals across the value
  • The number of percentage of goals in line with science, both environmental and social sciences

One thing that has remained the same across the years: energy and emissions reduction goals has been the #1 category in ESG goal setting every year.

Companies get it —  if we don’t get this one right, then all the others are moot. There is no business on a scorched planet.

In the past three years, one of the notable increases we have seen is in the rise of Scope 3 emissions targets set. This is due to many factors including investor pressure to disclose all three scopes, customer pressure to lower emissions in their value chain, and the launch the Net-Zero Standard by the SBTI.

Another notable change is the uptick in and quality of employee-related goals. This is due to the growing importance of a company’s sustainability performance, particularly on climate, for incoming employees. Sometimes this is a “tie breaker” in job selection. Sometimes it is the leading priority.

Combining those two categories, emissions, and employees, is a new intersection in emissions reduction.

In the annual research now being conducted for the next data refresh of the Pivot Goals site, we are seeing companies do just that. Employees directly affect Business Travel, a line item in the Scope 3 emission category. Employees directly affect Employee Commute, another Scope 3 line item. Employees working at home, which has greatly increased over the past three years, now represent a transfer of previous Scope 2 emissions.

With the increased focus on and need to reduce Scope 3 emissions, companies will need to get more creative and innovative. Working proactively with their employees and providing appropriate incentives will certainly be an important step in the realization of this new type of ESG target.

By Jeff Gowdy, Director at Sustainserv and benefyd Sustainability Advisor

* Jeff Gowdy has managed the project since its inception.