The Science Based Targets initiative has developed new target setting guidelines for companies with Scope 3 emissions associated with the forest, land and agriculture (FLAG) sector.
Regrow recently hosted a webinar as part of our “Climate Action through Agriculture” series. The webinar featured an open conversation between Regrow’s Director of Environmental Strategy & Climate Policy Jeff Seale, Ph.D., and the Director of Climate Science & Carbon Metrics for WWF, Christa Anderson, Ph.D. WWF (World Wide Fund For Nature) is a founding partner of the Science Based Targets initiative.
Jeff and Christa discussed the guidance itself, why it was updated, who it will affect (and on what timeline), and how companies can go about preparing to set new FLAG targets.
An overview of this guidance can be found in our recent article, Navigating the Science Based Targets initiative FLAG Guidance, or in the webinar itself (fill out the form above to view). However, we also received several questions from webinar attendees that allowed Jeff and Christa to shed more light on SBTi FLAG target guidelines and provide more context for stakeholders in the agrifood and climate industries.
Here, we’ll review the most prominent questions from the webinar, including how companies can start setting SBTi targets, how to gather the right data for these targets, why offsets aren’t included in FLAG guidance, and how companies can promote climate mitigation within and beyond their value chains.
All the questions below were answered by Jeff or Christa during the webinar.
Question: Let’s walk through the process of target-setting. How does a company get started?
Any companies that are interested in setting science-based targets should obtain a submission form from SBTi. That form will ask the company to conduct a full inventory of all fossil-based emissions within their supply chains. In the case of FLAG-based targets, companies will include land-based emissions as well. Emissions must be inventoried according to the Greenhouse Gas Protocol, an organization that establishes standardized frameworks to measure and manage greenhouse gas emissions from private and public sector organizations.
Companies will use information on their current emissions to set goals that will keep them in line with the Paris Climate Agreement, which dictates that we must keep global warming below 1.5℃ - 2℃.
SBTi will then review this information and the targets set by companies, and will approve those targets if they meet the organization’s requirements.
In December 2022, SBTi announced the first companies that had their targets approved by SBTi. Many other companies are in the approval process for this as well.
Companies that set science-based targets generally fall into 2 categories: some companies are focused on setting their targets and identifying a mitigation plan at the same time, while others are taking the process in step-by-step fashion. How companies implement their targets is a topic that’s gaining a lot of momentum, and we expect to see a lot more content on that in the coming months.
Question: How quickly can a company set targets and get them approved by SBTi?
SBTi has received numerous FLAG target validation requests, and there is currently a waitlist. However, the organization is gaining experience with the first few submissions, and they expect that the process will speed up over time.
Question: What type of data does a company need to gather in order to submit a science-based FLAG target with SBTi?
Companies need to submit a full emissions inventory following the GHG protocol guidance for FLAG-based emissions. Tools like Regrow’s Sustainability Insights can help companies gather scientifically robust, transparent data on emissions across supply sheds, which can contribute to a strong target submission.
After gathering this data, companies can start identifying which mitigation options they should focus on first, and how they can best reach their targets (this type of prioritization is also possible with Sustainability Insights).
In general, it’s important to remember that Scope 3 emissions are difficult to account for, and emissions in the land sector are especially difficult.
Companies shouldn’t expect to have farm-level data for every emission they’re tracking. Many companies are starting with generalized emissions factors, which can enable them to make progress towards meaningful goals while they gain access to the datasets and resources they need for more granular reporting.
That being said, once a company has established a process for gathering emissions factors, it is in the company’s best interest to gather dynamic, specific data beyond general emissions factors. Gathering specific emissions data is especially important in agriculture, because generalized emissions factors are often not aligned with the exact regions from which a company sources its products. The difference in emissions between agricultural regions can make it especially difficult to convert a baseline into an actionable strategic plan to mitigate emissions. Learn more about this in our recent blog post about measuring baseline emissions.
Question: Why aren’t offsets included in SBTi’s FLAG Guidance? Will offsets ever be addressed by SBTi?
SBTi targets govern what needs to be done within a company’s supply chain in order to keep us in line with the goals set by the Paris Climate Agreement. Because of this, SBTi guidance has never included offsets,which, by definition, occur outside of a company’s supply chain. This reasoning remains true for companies with FLAG-based emissions.
However, SBTi understands that land use is difficult to define within the boundaries of ‘insets’ and ‘offsets.’ Often, we consider land use as being available for offsets, but the new FLAG guidance defines land as being part of a company’s supply chain.
There is a place in SBTi’s guidelines for offsets. It’s within the guidelines for “beyond value chain mitigation.”
This mitigation is meant to be used by companies that have already set a science-based target and are interested in working above and beyond that target. SBTi is expected to publish more on “beyond value chain mitigation” work this summer.
Question: How can companies handle “beyond value chain mitigation” work?
When the FLAG model was built, it included only the land use that’s within the supply chain of a company. It has not, until now, included land use that’s outside of a company’s supply chain. Examples of this are forest land, which belongs to the government, or small shareholder farmers who engage in subsistence farming.
This land use, while not included in SBTi’s primary goal, is important to address. Our collective climate change mitigation goals encompass all the land in the world. This is where “beyond value chain mitigation” comes in. For companies that want to account for legacy emissions, or do work beyond their supply chains, this is a great place to start.
Question: How does SBTi FLAG guidance work as an incentive for farmers to adopt sustainable practices and help companies materialize their targets?
Once in a while, farmers or co-ops will set their own SBTi targets. For the most part, however, larger companies are setting SBTi targets and mitigating emissions across their supply chains, which includes farmers.
SBTi does not directly incentivize farmers to adopt sustainable practices, but SBTi and its targets allows companies to analyze their supply chains and decide:
- Which incentives are appropriate for their farmers
- How to best work with farmers to compensate them for sustainable practices and reduced emissions.
Question: Where can I find more information about SBTi’s FLAG Guidance?
More information can be found on https://sciencebasedtargets.org/. Here are several resources that are specific to FLAG guidance:
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