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A description of four science-based corporate GHG target-setting methods

Pedro Cabral Santiago Faria (Technical, CDP, London, UK)
Nicole Labutong (CDP, London, UK)

Sustainability Accounting, Management and Policy Journal

ISSN: 2040-8021

Article publication date: 10 June 2019

Issue publication date: 23 April 2020




Amidst a growing interest in greenhouse gas (GHG) science-based target setting by businesses, it is becoming increasingly urgent to understand how these are set in theory and in practice.


Using a model framework for science-based methods, the authors compare four different science-based target-setting methods: sectoral decarbonization approach, linear emission reduction to target year, GHG emissions per unit of value added and corporate finance approach to climate stabilizing targets. Input and output variables, GHG scopes, allocation principles and mathematical formulations are described, followed by a discussion of the differences and similarities between methods.


The authors show GHG emission mitigation scenarios are as important in the determination of targets as the allocation principle.

Practical implications

For this reason, businesses should apply well-bellow 2ºC scenarios with robust sectoral and regional granularity and the science community should consider the needs of these groups of stakeholders.

Social implications

Policymakers should actively support efforts by corporations to set science-based targets and ensure that the research they commission can be translated into practical action by non-party stakeholders.


This paper contributes to the understanding of the theory and practice of science-based targets.



Work conducted for this paper received the support of the Child Investment Fund Foundation.

The authors thank Paul Griffin for feedback on formulas in this paper. They also thank the reviewers of the paper whose suggestions have considerably improved its structure and clarity.


Faria, P.C.S. and Labutong, N. (2020), "A description of four science-based corporate GHG target-setting methods", Sustainability Accounting, Management and Policy Journal, Vol. 11 No. 3, pp. 591-612.



Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2019, Emerald Publishing Limited

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