Science-based targets: on target?

Jannik Giesekam, Jonathan Norman, Alice Garvey, Sam Betts-Davies

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)
1 Downloads (Pure)


Companies are increasingly seeking to align their actions with the goals of the Paris Agreement. Over 1000 such companies have committed to the science-based targets initiative which seeks to align corporate carbon reduction targets with global decarbonisation trajectories. These 'science-based targets' are developed using a common set of resources and target-setting methodologies, then independently assessed and approved by a technical advisory group. Despite the initiative's rapid rise to public prominence, it has received little attention to date in the academic literature. This paper discusses development of the initiative based upon a quantitative assessment of progress against each component of the science-based targets set by 81 early adopters, using information gathered from company annual reports, corporate social responsibility websites and Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP) responses. The analysis reveals a mixed picture of progress. Though the majority of targets assessed were on track and, in some cases, had already been achieved, just under half of the companies assessed were falling behind on one or more of their targets. Progress varied significantly by target scope, with more limited progress against targets focused on Scope 3 emissions. Company reporting practices were highly variable and often of poor quality. This paper concludes with a range of recommendations to improve the transparency, consistency and comparability of targets within this key agenda-setting initiative.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1657
Pages (from-to)1-20
Number of pages20
JournalSustainability (Switzerland)
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 4 Feb 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • climate
  • climate change mitigation
  • corporate
  • corporate social responsibility
  • emissions reduction
  • greenhouse gas accounting
  • mitigation target
  • reporting
  • science-based targets
  • sustainability


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