Align your company with a 1.5°C world!

by | December 3, 2021

Today’s newsletter and podcast are for anyone who works at a company. Or knows someone who does that cares about the climate crisis.

My hope is that this leads to more people taking steps to help get their companies in alignment with the Paris Agreement and a 1.5°C world.

I recently had the pleasure of speaking with Nate Aden who is the Finance Sector Lead at the Science Based Targets Initiative (SBTi).

In this episode with Nate Aden, we cover the importance of companies setting science-based targets, what employees can do to jump-start the process, the role of the financial industry in climate action, net-zero, and more!

As always, I’ve given some high-level info below. But I’d encourage you to watch or listen to our full conversation to get the full picture.

Context: What is the Science Based Targets Initiative?

The Science Based Targets initiative was founded by the Carbon Disclosure Project, the World Resources Institute, the World Wide Fund for Nature, and the United Nations Global Compact to help companies who were struggling to figure out what the 2015 Paris Agreement meant for them.

Science-based targets specify how much and how quickly a company needs to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions.

The initiative is standardizing, facilitating, and accelerating corporate action with a three-pronged approach:

  • Remove technical barriers for the adoption of science-based targets.
  • Create a critical mass of companies with science-based targets.
  • Institutionalize the adoption of science-based targets.

“Part of the theory of change is that once you hit a tipping point in a particular sector or geography, then there tends to be accelerating change. What we’re finding is that once you get about 20% of companies in a sector – there’s a lot of pressure on the remaining companies to act and that peer pressure is often much stronger than the Paris Agreement, public campaigns, or even policy in some countries. So this is really the way to get those companies to change their practices.” – Nate Alden

Some Key Takeaways

This is a big corporate movement. And it seems to be working.

So far, 1,045 companies representing nearly 25% of global market capitalization ($23 trillion out of $93 trillion) have set targets through SBTi.

And they’re proving that science-based climate action goes hand-in-hand with business success (driving innovation, boosting investor confidence, reducing regulatory uncertainty, gaining a competitive advantage, and more).

SBTi’s most recent analysis shows that 338 companies reduced their scope 1 & 2 emissions by 25% from 2015 to 2019. This means they’re actually beating their goals.

Financial institutions need to align their investing and lending practices with a 1.5°C world ASAP.

Financial institutions are increasingly understanding how worsening climate impacts will negatively affect their bottom line. We need them to start understanding the impact they can have to minimize how bad climate change gets in the first place. And to actually take those actions.

Three tips for employees on getting your company to set science-based targets.

  1. Grow awareness and momentum for science-based targets among staff (create space and time for regular meetings and discussions).
  2. Harness the competitive angle. Look at SBTi’s list of companies who already set targets in your sector and geography.
  3. Engage with leadership. Make a proposal. Show what it would mean for your company to set a science-based target (this guide should help a bit).

Short-term targets and maximizing actual emissions reductions (rather than leaning on offsets) are critical.

There’s a lot of net-zero commitments flying around. Which is great. But a lot of it is a distraction from what actually needs to be done: reducing emissions asap.

Podcast timeline:
0:00 Intro
1:40 Nate’s climate story.
5:30 The Science Based Target Initiative’s origin story and theory of change.
8:20 SBTi’s exponential growth.
10:00 Five high-level criteria for assessing targets.
14:30 What the process is like for companies and/or employees spearheading the effort.
20:00 What happens after companies set their targets?
23:50 What is the annual rate of emission reductions that the targets translate to?
28:00 Biggest hurdles companies are facing and how to overcome them.
31:30 How to start collecting data on scope 3 emissions.
34:15 Three tips for employees for getting your company to sign up/get on board.
38:25 Where does the financial industry stand today? And where do they need to get to?
46:15 Tools & tech that can help financial institutions integrate a climate lens for their investing and lending portfolios.
57:00 Opportunities to build on SBTi’s work.
58:50 Divesting vs. engaging.
101:30 Net-zero & greenwashing.
1:12:00 No more investing in new fossil fuel infrastructure. 2030 & 2040 deadlines for investing in existing FF infrastructure.
1:15:35 Book recommendations and Nate’s final message!

Favorite Quotes

“Not only does [setting a science-based target] make staff feel good about their work but it also helps to reassure them that their work will exist in 10 or 20 years because there will be some huge transformations of the economy and the companies and financial institutions that have science-based targets are more prepared for what’s coming than the ones who don’t.” – Nate Aden
“Financial institutions that are net-zero need to end all of their coal investment by 2030 and all of their oil and gas investment by 2040 globally.” – Nate Aden
“I knew the climate was important but I didn’t really know what I could do about it or what my role was. And it took me years to find my current role. So I’d just encourage people to learn about what interests them and pursue what excites them and, you know, eventually you’ll find something that inspires you and where you can have a positive impact.” – Nate Aden

Really hope you consider looking into this for your company if it hasn’t already set science-based targets! Or share it with people you know who may be interested 🙂

Also, thinking of setting up another CS community meeting soon. Let me know if you have specific things you’d like to do or chat about with others!

This post originally featured in the Crowdsourcing Sustainability newsletter. Sign up for the newsletter below!

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