Demystifying Science Based Targets

Here at Interface, we are passionate about our commitment to creating a climate fit for life and our mission to reverse global warming. We realize that some of the terms related to our goals use technical or niche language that we don’t use every day, so we’d like to provide a deeper dive into what some of our latest initiatives really mean.

The Bigger Picture of Climate Change

Climate change has been a major concern for decades, and while Interface began reducing our carbon emissions starting back in 1994, in the last five years, the broader business community has begun to make their own climate commitments.

In 2016, 196 countries adopted the Paris Agreement to keep global temperatures from rising above 2 degrees Celsius compared to pre-industrial levels, with a target of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees. The main method of reaching this goal is through the global reduction in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

According to climate scientists, to maintain the 1.5 degrees Celsius goal, the world must cut GHG emissions in half by 2030 and become net-zero (removing as much greenhouses gases from the atmosphere as are put in) by 2050. It will take all organizations, governments and companies working together to achieve this moonshot goal. Our goals at Interface mirror this – we’ve committed to halve our company emissions by 2030 and to go beyond net-zero to become a carbon negative enterprise by 2040.

GHG emissions, including fossil fuel emissions, are a major contributor to global warming.

Breaking Down Greenhouse Gases

GHG emissions, specifically the burning of fossil fuels, which increase carbon dioxide levels, are the main cause of global warming.

While gas-fueled cars are one of the most talked about GHG contributors, fossil fuels are also used in energy production and manufacturing. The business sector is the single largest producer of GHG emissions, with the building and construction industry being responsible for nearly 40% of annual emissions alone. It’s critical that companies set GHG reduction targets in line with the same ambition under the Paris Agreement to keep the planet at a safe temperature.

Because of the prevalence of fossil fuels in modern society, it can be challenging for businesses to get a complete picture of where their emissions are coming from. To help put things into perspective, the Greenhouse Gas Protocol has broken GHG emissions into three categories for corporations:

  • Scope 1 – Direct Emissions: These are emissions directly in a company’s control, including manufacturing products, the creation of waste, and fueling company vehicles and equipment.
  • Scope 2 – Indirect Emissions from Purchased Energy: These emissions are generated from electricity, natural gas, HVAC, refrigeration, and other energy consumption needs.
  • Scope 3 – Indirect Emissions from Product Lifecycle: As defined by the Greenhouse Gas Protocol, Scope 3 emissions are “all indirect emissions (not included in Scope 2) that occur in the value chain of the reporting company, including both upstream and downstream emissions.” This covers everything from the emissions produced for purchased parts and materials (think microchips to build smartphones) to the end user’s use of a product or service (the energy used to power a smartphone).

Understanding and tracking all emission types is integral in setting GHG reduction goals aligned with science. Knowing where your largest impacts exist is especially critical for businesses that may not realize their largest impacts exist outside of their operations and within their supply chain.

The Path Forward

A best practice for companies is to ensure that their reduction commitments are consistent with the Paris Agreement and keep global temperature increase below 1.5 degrees Celsius.

This is where the Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi) comes in. The SBTi is a partnership between the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP), the United Nations Global Compact (UNGC), World Resources Institute (WRI) and the World Wildlife Fund for Nature (WWF) that aims to elevate businesses’ commitment to GHG reductions and to recognize companies leading in this area.

While any company can create a GHG reduction goal, SBTi approval offers third-party assessment and validation that a company’s efforts are ambitious enough to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees.

By partnering with SBTi and having our GHG reduction targets validated as science based, we know that we’re on track to help keep global temperatures at the 1.5-degree Celsius threshold. In addition, as climate action becomes a factor in the minds of global companies and our customers, SBTi approval signifies a like-mindedness among those committing to reduce GHG emissions.

Interface is the only flooring manufacturer that has a science-based target (SBT) and is one of about 20 companies in the building product manufacturing sector to have an approved SBT.

Interface announced the validation of its science-based target in September 2021.

The Goal at Interface

We hope this context makes our climate commitment easy to understand. We think it’s straightforward – we’re committed to reducing our Scope 1 and 2 emissions by 50%; our Scope 3 emissions from purchased products and services by 50%; and our emissions from travel and commuting by 30% — all from a 2019 base year. Then we will go beyond this to become a carbon negative company by 2040.

Our mission at Interface is to overcome climate change – one of the biggest challenges facing humanity. We must reverse global warming and encourage others to act. Together, with the other organizations, governments and companies declaring their own SBTs, we can create a climate fit for life.

Share with others

2 responses to “Demystifying Science Based Targets”

  1. Michael Dudek says:

    Kudos for the succinct explanation of SBTi. Not surprising that Interface is on point here.

  2. Ronal Larson says:

    Thanks hugely for your 2040 goal; that will not be easy. I am pushing biochar for carbon negativity – and that is now leading the field – and will be big also in 2030.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *