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What are the science-based targets for fashion to combat climate change?

In the fight against climate change, science-based targets are the benchmark for companies and organisations

Climate change is an urgent issue. Consumers, governments, and even companies are increasingly aware of the need to do something about it. That is why many businesses are investing in ESG commitments, or environmental, social, and governance practices.

There is no shortage of initiatives: one of them is the Paris Agreement, signed in 2015, which represents the international effort to reduce global warming by limiting greenhouse gas emissions to the goal of zero global emissions by 2050. This gave rise to the Science Based Targets Initiative (SBTI), to encourage companies to limit their carbon emissions and give them tools to succeed. 

Paris Agreement and Science Based Targets initiative, what are they about? 

The Paris Agreement aims to strengthen the global response to climate change by keeping a global temperature rise this century below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and to support efforts to limit the temperature increase even further to 1.5 degrees Celsius. It also sets out commitments from countries to reduce their emissions, provide financial support for developing countries, create capacity-building measures, and set up mechanisms for monitoring progress toward meeting targets.

The Science Based Targets (SBTi) initiative is a collaboration between the CDP (formerly the Carbon Disclosure Project), the United Nations Global Compact, the World Resources Institute (WRI), and the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF). Since its inception in 2015, more than 1,000 companies have already agreed to set climate goals based on science.

In October 2021, SBTi developed and unveiled the first net zero standards that provide the framework and tools by which companies can set net-zero targets based on science. 

Some of the practices suggested by SBTi include the adoption of transition plans to net zero, with interim milestones, better governance practices, and even the idea of linking executive compensation to the achievement of milestones.

SBTi has already developed methodologies, frameworks, and requirements for various industries, such as aviation, financial institutions, IT and communication, and even apparel and footwear. 

What are Science-based targets?

Science-Based Targets (SBTs) are greenhouse gas emission reduction goals for businesses and organisations, designed to be in line with the Paris Agreement. 

The science behind Science-Based Targets requires businesses and organizations to evaluate their current emissions levels and determine what level of emissions reduction is necessary to achieve the Paris Agreement’s goals. SBTs must also be approved by an independent assessment body before they can be adopted by a business or organization. 

Setting a science-based target is no easy task and requires rigorous data to ensure accuracy. Companies should start by analysing their current emissions, understanding the level of reduction needed to achieve Paris Agreement goals, setting interim targets where appropriate, and establishing an ESG criteria monitoring system. 

Data plays an essential role in this process as it provides companies with an evidence-based approach to setting targets. Data can be collected from existing sources or through surveys and interviews with stakeholders. Additionally, companies must also consider external factors such as climate change scenarios and sector benchmarks when setting a target. 

As reported on the official site of SBTi, companies can follow a five-step process to set science-based targets:

  1. Commit: Submit a letter containing the intent to set a science-based target;
  2. Develop: Work on a target of emissions reduction in line with the SBTi’s criteria;
  3. Submit: Present the target to the SBTi for validation;
  4. Communicate: Announce the target and inform stakeholders;
  5. Disclose: Report company-wide emissions and track target progress annually.

Other activities include what we have said before:

  • Establish a carbon budget to meet Paris Agreement goals;
  • Develop a transition plan that sets out how the company will reach the net-zero target by 2050;
  • Link executive compensation to meeting milestones. 
  • Monitor progress on ESG criteria relevant to the sector (such as water use and waste). 

What are the benefits of setting science-based targets?

The primary benefit of committing to a science-based target is that it provides businesses and organisations with an evidence-based approach to reducing their carbon footprint and moving toward the Paris Agreement’s goals. It can also help companies better understand their ESG criteria performance, leading to improved investor relations and potentially more attractive ESG ratings.

Furthermore, setting science-based targets creates opportunities for businesses to explore new, more sustainable practices such as circular economy models, and capture new market share at a time when the number of consumers interested in sustainability is steadily increasing.  

Why Fashion industry should adopt Science-Based Targets?

The fashion industry is currently one of the leading contributors to global GHG emissions and has a direct impact on climate change. Lately, it has been particularly active in ESG initiatives, but Science-Based Targets provide a means to make sure that ESG commitments are actually helping reduce carbon emissions. This is especially true since fashion products often require resources from different parts of the world, making them difficult to track and measure.

By setting science-based targets and using connected products, fashion companies can ensure that they are doing their part to combat climate change and create a more sustainable future.

By embracing connected products, fashion companies can create new business models that are in harmony with the environment while still generating revenue. These products enable fashion companies to monitor product lifecycle data in real-time so they can make informed decisions on how to reduce pollution along each step of the production process. 

Moreover, they are also the means of offering consumers:

  • repair services;
  • the collection of used clothing for recycling or reuse;
  • platforms for reselling the garments they no longer want;
  • rental services for clothing and accessories.

Although these services do not directly affect emission reduction, they extend the life of garments, contributing to better resource and waste management. And this, in an indirect way, brings benefits to climate change while still generating revenue.

29 Mar 2023

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