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Science-based targets for nature launched

The first science-based targets for nature, aiming to set the global standard for ambitious and measurable corporate action on nature, have been launched.

Developed by the science-based targets network (SBTN), the targets on nature provide guidance for companies to assess and prioritise their environmental impacts, and to prepare to set targets – beginning with freshwater and land, alongside climate through the science-based targets initiative (SBTi).

Over 200 organisations have already helped road-test SBTN’s initial methods, tools and guidance, including 115 companies. A group of 17 companies – including AB InBev, Alpro (part of Danone), Bel, Carrefour, Nestlé, Suntory Holdings and Tesco – are preparing targets for validation. A full roll-out to all companies in early 2024 will follow this initial pilot.

“Companies now have the scientific guardrails to begin to take the critical action towards a net-zero, nature positive equitable future,” said SBTN executive director Erin Billman.

The targets are introduced against the backdrop of scientific consensus that emphasises limiting global warming to 1.5C cannot be achieved without halting and reversing nature loss. Nature absorbs approximately half of the planet’s carbon emissions a year; and the latest research indicates that more than half of global GDP is moderately or highly dependent on nature.

Over 2,600 companies have already set science-based targets for climate through the SBTi. The new nature targets complement these existing climate targets, by allowing companies to take holistic action to address their impact in the face of mounting environmental and social crises. 

The end of 2022 brought a new set of biodiversity targets, agreed at the COP15 talks in Montreal, Canada. Four global goals and 23 targets are in place so the world can “halt and reverse biodiversity loss” by 2030. COP15’s agreement called on companies to “provide information needed to consumers to promote sustainable consumption patterns”.

Research by the Fairr investor network shows that 60% of the 47 meat, egg and dairy companies it assessed source soya for feed from areas at high risk of deforestation and have still (2022) not set deforestation targets; 83% are not adequately managing the pollution of waterways from manure; while 87% do not assess if their farms are located in water-stressed areas. These companies are vulnerable and investors want to know who they are. The COP15 agreement highlighted the need for more regular monitoring and transparent disclosures. 

In March the taskforce on nature-related financial disclosures (TNFD) released its fourth and final beta framework for nature-related risk management and disclosure. The taskforce has adapted the notion of ‘scopes’ (scope 1, 2 and 3 in climate reporting) to the nature context as ‘direct’ operations, ‘upstream’, ‘downstream’ and ‘financed’. Final recommendations are expected in September.

TNFC executive director Tony Goldner said:As we have seen with the taskforce on climate-related financial disclosures and the SBTi playing a key role in enabling action to tackle climate change and help making both business and finance more resilient to the physical and transition risks ahead, TNFD and SBTN guidance will play a similar role in addressing nature loss and nature risk.”