Recently, the Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi), a global mainstream climate target certification organization, has removed 121 companies from its list of companies taking action on climate goals. This list includes international giants like Amazon (AMZN:NASDAQ), Schneider, as well as 17 Chinese mainland companies including Trina Solar (688599:SH),Chindata (CD:NASDAQ), TCL (000100:SZ), and ZTO Express (2057:HK; ZTO:NYSE).
Founded in partnership with environmental information disclosure agency CDP, the United Nations Global Compact (UNGC), World Resources Institute (WRI), and public interest organization World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) in 2015, SBTi advocates for companies to set "science-based climate reduction targets" and offers third-party validation of the targets set by companies.
SBTi has gained recognition in recent years for its advocacy of emission reductions by private enterprises and financial institutions, earning a strong reputation in the field of climate action. Many companies are proud to be a member of SBTi or to have their targets verified by SBTi as part of their ESG disclosures and corporate promotion.
The 121 companies delisted had all previously committed to setting science-based carbon goals with SBTi but failed to submit targets that met SBTi standards within the specified timeframe for verification.
According to the SBTi, the certification process consists of five steps: target commitment, developpent, submission, communication, and disclosing progress in carbon reductions annually.
Until August of this year, large companies just needed to complete the first step and pass SBTi's due diligence to be marked as "committed" on the SBTi website, which served as a significant shortcut in seeking for a reliable endorsement.
Starting this year, SBTi introduced a new policy that requires companies or organizations to submit specific targets within two years after making their commitment; otherwise, they will be delisted. The deadline for these companies to submit specific targets was in August of this year.
SBTi stated that this change not only enhances the transparency and reliability of commitments and target verification but also addresses the issue of companies making commitments without taking action, which has been a significant barrier.
This move is widely seen in the industry as a warning against "greenwashing" by companies.
Over the past 30 years, emissions reduction by companies has shifted from an inconspicuous part of corporate social responsibility and compliance requirements to a marketing tool for brands. According to SBTi's disclosures, as of now, only 3,383 out of 6,040 candidates have passed target verification.
Amazon stands out among the companies recently delisted, boasting one of the highest market capitalizations within this group. After being delisted, Amazon publicly responded by stating that it has been working in collaboration with SBTi, attempting to develop emission reduction methods for a complex business. However, Amazon found it challenging to submit "meaningful and accurate" targets. According to Amazon's disclosure in 2022, despite having a renewable energy usage rate of up to 90%, its operational emissions have increased by 44.7% over the past three years.
The reason for this increase in emissions is attributed to the nature of Amazon's retail business. The proportion from fossil fuel combustion and refrigeration emissions in its own operations is higher than that of indirect emissions from electricity. Furthermore, emissions from supply chain and downstream industries out of Amazon's commitment scope have also increased by as much as 37.8%. Such an inconsistent action is criticized as "greenwashing".
Trina Solar, a leading Chinese photovoltaic company, made a commitment to set carbon reduction targets in line with the global 1.5-degree warming target in the year it applied to join the SBTi initiative, too.
However, it did not submit the targets for verification within the stipulated two-year timeframe. Currently, Trina Solar has committed on its own to halve the carbon intensity of its PV, battery and module products by 2025, with emissions from its holdings of power stations and other business activities excluded from the commitment. Trina Solar has not disclosed whether this target has been verified by a third-party assessment.