Natural Sciences

Introducing the Natural Next Step for Science-Based Targets

Written by Mamie M. Arndt

Setting science-based targets for nature — as Seventh Generation and other leading companies are doing — can bolster climate targets while also
helping to protect and restore water, oceans, land and biodiversity.

With over 1,100
companies
committing
to setting science-based targets (SBTs) for climate, including many of the
world’s largest corporations, SBTs have become the gold standard for setting
corporate climate
goals.
However, the climate crisis is not the only global threat to our planet. We live
today in the Anthropocene — a
period of human-caused mass extinction of animals and plants. As the World
Business Council for Sustainable Development
has
observed,
“The twin crises of nature loss and climate change are inextricably linked.” It
is clear that we will not achieve the Paris climate
goals
nor preserve the world’s ecosystems without similar science-based targets to
protect oceans, land, water, and biodiversity.

In September 2020, the Science Based Targets Network (SBTN) issued
interim
guidance

showing companies how to protect and restore nature in line with science. SBTN
aims to clearly define a way to ensure companies what the science says is
required to protecting the Earth’s land, oceans, water and biodiversity.

Climate SBTs can help with setting similar targets for nature

Firms that have set SBTs for climate and investigated their value chains will
likely find they have some of the groundwork and data needed for setting nature
targets. An example is Seventh Generation, a leading home and personal care
brand that made an ambitious 2018 climate commitment.

The state of goal-setting around key environmental thresholds …

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Seventh Generation commits to reduce absolute Scope 1 and 2 GHG emissions 100
percent by 2030 from a 2012 base year. The company also commits to reduce
absolute Scope 3 GHG emissions from the use of sold products 90 percent by 2030
and reduce total Scope 3 emissions from remaining categories 80 percent by 2030,
from a 2012 base-year.

Pure Strategies supported Seventh Generation’s climate target-setting and
implementation process. We worked with the company to assess greenhouse gas
emissions throughout the value chain, identifying carbon hot spots, and to vet
various interventions to mitigate emissions. This involved analyzing the
company’s product and packaging purchases and tracing the origins of
carbon-intensive materials and ingredients. Excluding the use phase, we found
that nearly 60 percent of the company’s Scope 3
emissions
came from four items: palm-based surfactants, citric acid/sodium citrate,
plastic and fiber.

This analysis led to a set of interventions needed to meet Seventh Generation’s
SBT climate commitment: committing to Roundtable of Sustainable Palm Oil
(RSPO)-certified
palm,
concentrating laundry products, sourcing citric acid/sodium citrate from
low-carbon suppliers, increasing the use of recycled plastics and fibers,
encouraging suppliers’ use of renewable energy, and increasing the use of
certified fibers.

In identifying the top climate interventions, we also reviewed their potential
land use, biodiversity, ocean and freshwater risks. By adding this nature-based
lens to the analysis, we uncovered several benefits to land, oceans,
biodiversity and freshwater from the company’s climate interventions (see table
1). None of the climate interventions are anticipated to have a materially
negative impact on nature.

To take the next step of using the SBTN guidance and explore potential nature
targets,
the process will be fairly similar — such as understanding the value chain and
raw material sources. Such an assessment would examine this through a lens of
biodiversity, freshwater, land and oceans instead of a greenhouse gas focus. It
also requires a look at not just the impacts of the value chain (e.g., land
footprint, water footprint), but also its dependencies — such as where
ingredients and materials are reliant on water availability, biodiversity and
other nature systems. SBTN provides
guidance
on conducting nature-focused materiality analyses, value chain mapping and
prioritization (see Figure 1), which we have helped companies to understand and
complete.

SBTN: A pioneering effort

Roughly 30 companies — including
Unilever, General
Mills
, Mars,
L’Oréal, and Pure Strategies —
have signed up to road test the methods, tools and guidance for science-based
targets for nature to ensure they are user-friendly and easy to implement. SBTN
expects the interim
guidance

to be finalized in 2022.

Companies need not wait until the final guidance is available to take action.
Mars,
for example, set climate, land use and deforestation targets in 2016 including:
hold flat the total land area associated with their value chain and eliminate
unsustainable water use in their value chain, starting with a 50 percent
reduction by 2025.

Companies are increasingly seeing the connection between nature and climate. One
recent study found
that nature-based
solutions
can provide nearly 40 percent of cost-effective GHG mitigation needed by 2030 to
stabilize global warming to below 2°C. So, setting science-based targets for
nature can bolster climate targets while also helping to protect and restore
water, oceans, land and biodiversity.

This will help us reach the zero-carbon,
nature-positive
future we need. We’ve only got one planet — we’ve got to act decisively and
quickly to protect, restore and preserve it.

About the author

Mamie M. Arndt