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The Link Between SBTi and Green Buildings



In the face of escalating global climate challenges, the construction industry stands at a crucial juncture. Responsible for approximately 37% of global carbon emissions, the sector is under increasing pressure to more sustainable methods. Green buildings, which are designed to reduce the overall impact of the built environment on human health and the natural environment, are rapidly becoming not just a standard but a necessity. A pivotal component in this shift is the adoption of the Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi), which provides a robust framework for companies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in line with climate science.


What is SBTI ? 

The Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi) is a collaborative project that has become a key player in driving corporate action on climate change. It was established through a partnership between the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP), the United Nations Global Compact, World Resources Institute (WRI), and the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF). The initiative aims to encourage companies to set emissions reduction targets in line with the level of decarbonization required to keep global temperature increase below 2 degrees Celsius, as specified in the Paris Agreement.


The primary goal of SBTi is to make companies' paths to emission reduction clear and rigorous. It provides a clearly-defined pathway for companies to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, helping prevent catastrophic climate changes and promoting future economic stability. Targets set by companies are considered 'science-based' if they align with what the latest climate science deems necessary to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement, to limit global warming to well-below 2°C above pre-industrial levels and pursue efforts to limit warming to 1.5°C.


SBTi drives ambitious climate action in the private sector by enabling companies to set science-based emissions reduction targets. The process involves the following steps:

  • Commitment: Companies commit to setting a science-based emission reduction target.

  • Development: Companies then develop their targets in line with SBTi’s criteria and recommendations.

  • Submission and Validation: Once developed, companies submit their targets for assessment. SBTi experts validate the targets to ensure they are in line with scientific requirements.

  • Disclosure: Companies must publicly disclose their targets and progress against them to maintain transparency and accountability.

Recognizing the unique challenges and opportunities present in different sectors, SBTi offers 

tailored guidance for sectors such as apparel, food and beverage, and others. This guidance helps companies within these sectors to align their strategies with the initiative’s rigorous criteria. The initiative has seen widespread adoption, with 4,204 companies validated by the SBTi by the end of 2023 compared to 2,079 in 2022. The increasing number of companies joining the initiative reflects growing corporate awareness and commitment to combating climate change.


Challenges of the Construction Sector

The construction sector plays a pivotal role in the global economy, but it also faces significant challenges when it comes to sustainability. These challenges are not only environmental but also economic and regulatory, impacting how the industry can move towards greener practices : 


  •  High Carbon Emissions : 

The construction industry is one of the largest contributors to global greenhouse gas emissions, responsible for approximately 37% of CO2 emissions. The production of building materials like cement, steel, and glass is particularly emission-intensive. Reducing these emissions is critical to meeting global climate goals, but doing so requires significant changes in materials and methods used in construction.


  • Resource Consumption and Waste :

According to the Global Status Report for Building and Construction, the industry's resource consumption is set to double by 2060, with major materials like steel, concrete, and cement being significant contributors to greenhouse gas emissions. Additionally, construction and demolition activities generate vast amounts of waste, much of which ends up in landfills. Promoting recycling and reuse within the sector is essential but challenging due to the lack of standardized processes and technologies for material recovery.


  • Energy Use in Buildings :

Buildings are major consumers of energy with the sector accounting for around 34% of global energy demand, mostly due to heating, cooling, and lighting. Improving energy efficiency in buildings is a continuous challenge, compounded by the existing stock of buildings that were not designed with energy efficiency in mind. Retrofitting old buildings and ensuring new constructions meet high energy efficiency standards are vital steps.


  • Regulatory and Policy Barriers :

While many regions have begun to implement stricter building codes and standards to encourage green construction, inconsistency and lack of enforcement remain significant barriers. The regulatory environment can also be slow to adapt to new technologies and practices, hindering innovation and adoption of sustainable building practices.


  • Economic Constraints :

The upfront cost of green buildings and sustainable construction technologies can be higher than traditional methods, which deters investment. For green building certification such as LEED, this cost is only 2 to 3% higher than a non certified building. However, green buildings typically lead to substantial operational savings over time. According to the World Green Building Council, green buildings can reduce energy consumption by 30-40%, water consumption by 20-30%, and carbon emissions by 35%, resulting in significant cost savings​​. Additionally, new green buildings and renovations have an increased asset value of over 9%.


  • Lack of Awareness and Expertise : 

There is a knowledge gap in the construction industry regarding the benefits and implementation of sustainable practices. Training and education are needed to build capacity among architects, engineers, and builders to design, construct, and maintain green buildings effectively.


Integration of SBTi in the construction Sector 

The integration of the Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi) in the building sector represents a crucial step in aligning industry practices with global climate goals. The SBTi's detailed approach for this sector offers a framework for companies to reduce their carbon footprint effectively while fostering innovation in sustainable building designs and operations. Here are the key steps for SBTi implementation in building sector : 


Setting Science-Based Targets: The SBTi provides a sector-specific pathway for buildings, urging companies to adopt targets that are in line with limiting global warming to well-below 2°C, and ideally 1.5°C. This involves a thorough assessment of current emissions and a detailed roadmap for reduction that includes both direct operational activities and broader, indirect impacts like those from purchased goods and services.


Adopting Green Building Practices: Companies in the building sector are encouraged to adopt sustainable design principles, use green building materials, and invest in energy-efficient technologies. This includes leveraging advancements in architecture and materials science to minimize energy use and incorporating renewable energy sources directly into new projects. Learn more about how Green Building Consulting & Engineering (GBCE) can help incorporate sustainable design principles into projects here.


Engaging the Value Chain: Much like the broader focus seen in other sectors, engaging suppliers and subcontractors in the building sector is crucial. This might involve requiring that key suppliers and partners also commit to their own science-based targets, ensuring that the sustainability efforts are comprehensive and cover the full lifecycle of building projects.


Continuous Monitoring and Reporting: Rigorous data management and transparent reporting are essential to track progress against established targets. Companies are advised to regularly update their emissions data, engage in third-party verifications, and publicly report their progress to maintain accountability and stakeholder trust.


Case Study : Transpooreon’s Path to SBTi Commitment


Overview and Commitments to SBTi

Transporeon, a leading German SaaS company in logistics, has demonstrated a strong commitment to environmental stewardship by aligning with the Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi). This alignment underscores their dedication to actionable and scientifically grounded strategies to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions. By setting verifiable and ambitious targets, Transporeon not only aims to enhance its sustainability profile but also to strengthen its corporate responsibility and market competitiveness.


Results Achieved

Through meticulous implementation of its strategic plans across various scopes of emissions, Transporeon has reported notable progress. From 2019 to 2021, the company successfully reduced its total CO2e emissions from 6,482.9 tons to 5,625.1 tons, achieving a significant decrease in emissions intensity per employee. This reduction highlights the efficacy of the measures put in place and sets a precedent for continuous improvement.


Strategic Approach 

Transporeon’s strategic approach to meeting its SBTi targets includes several key actions:

  • Scope 1 - Emissions Reductions: Transporeon focused on reducing fleet emissions by upgrading to more fuel-efficient vehicles and incorporating electric vehicles (EVs). They utilized the linear reduction formula to aim for a 46.2% decrease in fleet emissions by 2030.

  • Scope 2 - Energy Efficiency: For office energy use, the company implemented energy-saving measures such as better insulation, efficient HVAC systems, and transitioning to renewable energy sources. They set a target to source 100% of their electricity from renewable sources by 2030.

  • Scope 3 - Supplier Engagement: Transporeon developed a supplier engagement program to influence their suppliers to adopt sustainable practices and set their own science-based targets. This involved categorizing suppliers by emissions, focusing first on those with the highest impacts.

  • Business Travel Optimization: Significant reductions in business travel emissions, leveraging remote meeting technologies and optimizing travel policies to favor less carbon-intensive transport modes. Tranporeon commits to reducing business travel 27.5% from 209 to 2030.


Transporeon’s journey towards sustainability is marked by a strategic, data-driven approach that addresses all areas of its operations. The company's ongoing efforts to meet and exceed its established targets reflect a strong commitment to sustainability, providing a model for other companies.

Conclusion

With the construction industry responsible for a substantial share of global emissions, adopting green building practices and aligning with the Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi) is essential. This approach not only addresses environmental challenges but also enhances economic viability through reduced operational costs and increased asset values. The Transporeon case study underscores the success of strategic emission reduction and serves as a model for the industry.


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