Environment & Climate Change, Featured, News, Resources

Australian Businesses Urged to Set Science-Based Targets

Kylie Porter | October 22, 2021

Global Compact Network Australia, WWF-Australia and Griffith University release new report outlining good practice in building a net-zero future 

With just one week to go until the world’s largest climate change conference, COP26 in Glasgow, three of Australia’s leading sustainability bodies have united to urge local businesses to elevate their commitment to climate change and set science-based targets.

This comes as the local network of the UN Global Compact, the Global Compact Network Australia (GCNA), World Wild Fund for Nature (WWF) Australia and Griffith University release a report revealing how leading Australian companies are reducing emissions in line with the Science Based Targets Initiative (SBTI). As the world’s largest and fastest-growing group of companies taking urgent action for a 1.5°C planet, the SBTi defines and promotes best practice in science-based target setting. 

The report, Building a Net-Zero Future: Australian Businesses Taking Science-Based Climate Action, emphasises that a transformational shift is needed to mitigate the catastrophic effects of climate change – which ultimately will affect the environment in which businesses operate. 

With a look into some of Australia’s leading businesses with science-based targets like Transurban, Intrepid Travel and Downer, the report reveals a roadmap on how businesses can overcome challenges and innovate their business models to plan and deliver for a more sustainable future. It also offers a range of target-setting resources while outlining the pathway for companies who want to introduce science -based targets into their business. 

Commenting on the significance of the publication, GCNA Executive Director, Kylie Porter says: “Australia is already seeing the effects of climate change, with an increase of 1.4°C since 1910 leading to more extreme weather events, as documented in the most recent IPCC report. As global forces unite at COP26, Australian businesses have a critical role to play to ensure Australia is positioned as a leader in innovation, including by delivering credible strategies and actions that align to a 1.5 degree science-based target. 

“This publication offers businesses and their leaders direction on how to build the business case for adopting science-based emission reduction targets internally and making them standard business practice. By embedding climate action that is aligned with the Paris Agreement, the private and government sectors will be well placed to drive a credible path to net zero emissions and accelerate climate ambition.” 

As the driving research body for the report, Griffith University interviewed sustainability managers of businesses who were early adopters in setting formal and informal science-based targets in Australia to understand their processes, barriers, attitudes and motivations. 

Dr Rob Hales, Director, Griffith Centre for Sustainable Enterprise, Griffith University, says: “Our research found that despite C-suite support being a critical gateway for a business case to adopt a science-based target, only a small number of boards passed motions. It is clear that the success of a business case for science-based targets is dependent on whether there is a broader sustainability strategy in place within the business. 

“It is clear that the climate crisis has shifted the social licence to operate for business. The business community has reached a tipping point where it is an expected standard practice for all businesses to have net-zero emissions targets. The insights in our report are designed to inform other businesses as they adopt the SBTi framework.” 

Companies committed to the SBTi are demonstrating that creating a climate-secure world goes hand-in-hand with successful business operations. 

Monica Richter, Senior Manager, Low Carbon Futures, WWF-Australia says, “As one of the global partners of the Science Based Targets initiative, WWF supports companies that recognise the benefits of acting on climate change and are prepared to take the steps needed to cut emissions throughout their value chain aligned with a 1.5°C pathway. We are excited with the launch of the Net Zero Standard in the lead up to the Climate COP to set expectations on what is best practice when companies claim to be Net Zero. 

“A 1.5°C pathway means global GHG emissions must halve at a minimum by 2030 and reduce to net-zero well before 2050. We have limited time for action and the private sector has a crucial role to play – every sector in every market must transform. The Science Based Targets initiative is one of the best ways for businesses to align their business with a 1.5°C pathway. Sustainability managers play a crucial role in supporting corporate climate ambition.” 

Ahead of the COP26 conference in Glasgow, UK commencing just days later, GCNA, WWF-Australia and Griffith University will officially launch the report at a virtual event on Thursday 28 October. Discussing the study’s findings, the event features three Australian businesses whose case studies are included in the publication – Intrepid Travel, Downer and Transurban. Further speakers also include Akhil Abraham, Head of Climate Diplomacy, British High Commission and Corinne Schoch, Head of Programmes, Global Compact Network Australia. 

To view the report, visit: unglobalcompact.org.au/publications 

Alternative Text

article by

Kylie Porter

Kylie is a sustainability expert with over 18 years of experience in corporate affairs, sustainability and strategy roles across a broad range of industries. During her career, Kylie has helped numerous companies develop and implement responsible business strategies, managed reputation risk for environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues and wrote and managed policies across various thematic areas including climate change and human rights.