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The Case for Science Based Targets (SBT’s)

for reducing CO2 in the UK Construction Industry

CONCLUSIONS taken from Hannah Clement’s CIOB Sustainability Scholarship


Science Based Targets (SBT’s) are a new, key driver for the UK construction industry. With the transition to a low carbon economy already happening, every industry across the world must adapt and transform to reduce its own carbon emissions and limit global warming to no more than 2° C.

Climate change related disasters are estimated to put 1.3bn people at risk by 2050 and $158 trillion of assets. With this scale of risk, businesses will have to begin to set self-regulatory targets, such as SBT’s where legislation is lacking.

  1. The literature review outlines how global climate change agreements and UK climate targets relate to science-based targets.
  2. Science-based target initiatives and campaigning groups are driving SBT’s across the UK.
  3. Large organisations have key business drivers for setting science-based targets.
  4. Large organisations will face challenges and opportunities when looking to set SBT’.
  5. Key reasons influencing large organisations in setting SBT’s are:
    • They are being driven by investors;
    • SBT’s empower the business;
    • Getting ahead of future legislation:
    • Cost savings;
    • Associated efficiencies and;
    • Showing leadership in the UK construction industry.


The top three business drivers identified were;

Alongside these drivers, there are a number of challenges and opportunities explored that will help prepare any organisation that may look to set a SBT.

The challenges vary from the complex SBT methodology and, the achievability of the targets, to capital expenditure needed upfront and changing mind-sets/internal behaviour.

On the other hand, when making the case to set a SBT, organisations can use the long list of opportunities that present themselves. These include; showing leadership in the industry, cost savings, having a long-term vision, future-proofing the business, carbon savings, talent attraction/retention and getting ahead of legislation.

In conclusion, setting a SBT is a growing phenomenon that is rapidly being adopted worldwide by all industries. The method of setting a target in line with science is a certain way of ensuring your organisation is reducing its impact on the climate and doing so transparently.

From interviews with only ten organisations, there is already a strong business case to set a SBT in the UK construction industry. This shows it is possible for all sectors.

As a large carbon emitting industry, businesses will be under pressure both internally and externally to demonstrate how they will rapidly reduce their carbon emissions meaningfully and credibly to enable a sustainable future for the UK, and more crucially the world.

Secondly, the interview asked the representatives what are the top 3 business drivers (also selling points) for setting SBT’s in their organisation. This recognises reputation in the UK construction industry as a driver for carbon reduction in general.

Reputation is also crossed with credibility, as organisations targets will be seen as more credible and ascertain by setting a SBT, that has gone through a rigorous methodology and is a challenging target overall.

Other drivers followed closely behind reputation include; cost savings, reducing the organisations impact and strengthening the overall sustainability strategy.

These four drivers could be summarised as the key selling points for any organisation in the UK construction industry to use in order to develop a strong business case for setting SBT’s

Overall, it is clear that there is a significant gap in research around the business case into the business drivers for organisations setting these targets. Future research could carry on the aim and methodology of this paper to enable a greater sample of organisations to take part. Additionally, research could focus on certain aspects of the business drivers such as; leadership, reputation, cost savings and the overall impact of reducing carbon emissions through setting science-based targets.