Yesterday, the Science Based Targets Network (SBTN) announced new land targets that will allow companies to consider how they impact land systems and set targets aligned with global nature goals. The land targets will be piloted over the remainder of 2023 and come after a year of discussion, development, and work by the SBTN Land Hub (which includes WWF, Conservation International, World Resources Institute, The Nature Conservancy, and FOLU/Systemiq). The targets are a response to the global need to better understand what nature needs and to design voluntary corporate targets that allow leading companies across all sectors to demonstrate they walk the path of a sustainable future for humanity. While the science is still developing and will continue to be refined during the pilot process and included in new iterations for the land targets, today companies can be certain that the SBTN land targets will be a part of that path.
What’s particularly notable about the land targets is how they are designed to work in concert with each other and how they’ll be implemented. First, these targets use a methodology that’s agreed to by each of the organizations represented in the SBTN Land Hub and with the support of the 80+ organizations that are represented by SBTN. Companies that want to set targets for nature through SBTN must use this methodology, which helps provide certainty and stability that the process they’ll undertake to set land targets will be uniform, validated, and recognized.
Second, these targets address a persistent obstacle to transformative change that eludes many other initiatives. While the No Conversion of Natural Ecosystems target directs companies to stop contributing to ecosystem conversion, and the pressures of extensive cropland on natural ecosystems are reduced through the Land Footprint Reduction target, the Landscape Engagement target brings transformative change to the forefront of the process. It directs companies to become engaged in and support the multiple objectives defined by the many stakeholders in landscape initiatives that are relevant to a company’s impacts. Most importantly, at this stage, it focuses on engagement and improvement in a landscape context instead of a site-based context and will deliver broad regeneration and restoration across all natural and non-natural land. As active participants in landscapes (through operations or sourcing), this target asks companies to demonstrate their vested interest beyond, but still material to, their operations or sourcing. Here the contribution of working land, whether it’s farms, forests, or fields, has massive potential to improve both nature and climate.
Of course, setting targets for nature is only the first step in achieving them. In this regard, the land targets will rely on existing corporate sustainability initiatives in their climate commitments under SBTi FLAG; their ambition under the Accountability Framework initiative; and their existing relationships with stakeholders in landscape initiatives. The SBTN land targets combine these efforts so companies can take advantage of the sustainability work they already do and springboard to higher ambition and greater impact.
The work of implementing these targets comes next. Unlike climate targets, geography matters in the case of SBTN. Companies will need to understand the context of their targets in the places they operate and all the geographies touched by their value chain’s reliance on land and commodities, and nature’s contributions to both. The SBTN land targets allow companies to start their journeys and move forward with confidence that these targets will help them address their impacts on nature and transform the ways they interact with it moving forward.