How SBTi’s New Standards Could Unlock Corporate Climate Potential

A key update for corporate climate action

On April 9, the Science-Based Targets Initiative (SBTi)’s advisory board announced a significant forthcoming update to its Corporate Net Zero Standard, marking a notable shift in corporate climate action strategy. This update would allow companies, as part of their Scope 3 decarbonization efforts, to use some environmental attribute certificates such as carbon credits, carbon insets, energy attribute certificates (EACs), other energy carrier certificates (for green hydrogen, green gas), and sustainable aviation fuel certificates (SAFc). CarbonCure commends SBTi for its willingness to adapt its standards in response to maturing carbon markets, and we strongly support the use of high-quality credits to address hard-to-abate Scope 3 emissions.

This decision by SBTi holds immense promise for the voluntary carbon market and global climate efforts. By accepting the use of environmental attribute certificates, SBTi will open avenues for companies to more quickly deploy capital and achieve interim targets on their way toward net zero, while simultaneously driving forward decarbonization of their value chain. We are looking forward to the detailed guidance on thresholds, guardrails and regulations of environmental attribute certificates that SBTi plans to publish by July 2024, providing clearer direction for corporations seeking to purchase carbon credits and for project developers planning to issue credits under these new standards.

SBTi’s previous limitations

SBTi has been helpful in steering corporations toward achieving net zero targets, but historically their guidelines disavowed the use of carbon credits. SBTi prioritized mitigation within a company's value chain, rejecting the integration of external mitigation efforts into corporate climate action.

While aiming to ensure that companies take direct responsibility for their emissions, this approach has at times been perceived as too restrictive, potentially deterring broader climate action by preventing flow of capital into innovative high-quality credit projects. In particular, it has hindered investment in the research and development of critical technologies needed to reduce emissions, particularly in hard-to-abate sectors like building materials. 

This limitation has ironically deterred some of the most climate-forward corporations from making commitments under SBTi because these corporations were interested in sponsoring catalytic projects outside of their current value chain. CarbonCure has worked directly with companies like these who have had the drive to move more quickly on climate than SBTi would allow. 

A necessary shift in perspective

In February 2024, SBTi released new guidance on "beyond value chain mitigation" (BVCM) acknowledging that credit purchases are essential to taking action to deliver BVCM. While this guidance was an important step toward encouraging carbon credit investment, it fell short of providing a tangible incentive for companies to do so, as these investments did not count toward meeting their interim targets. 

This latest announcement, however, signals a true paradigm shift for SBTi. By allowing environmental attribute certificates, including carbon credits, to count toward Scope 3 decarbonization goals under certain circumstances, SBTi will give room for corporations to structure comprehensive climate action strategies and for the voluntary credit ecosystem to continue to grow and mature. 

This shift has the potential to address challenges faced by sectors with limited low-carbon alternatives available today. Previously, companies interested in using lower-carbon concrete who found it physically unavailable had no mechanism to compensate for the emissions associated with traditional concrete use. SBTi’s new approach could facilitate these companies exploring virtual attributes to offset their emissions. Like sustainable aviation fuel certificates, this could have a transformative impact on the market availability of solutions, including lower carbon concrete.

Central Concrete pours lower carbon concrete made with CarbonCure's technologies at UC Law San Francisco.

Standards bodies embracing market-based mechanisms

SBTi’s signaled shift aligns with other standards bodies recognizing the impact of market-based mechanisms—when executed well—can have on decarbonization efforts. The Greenhouse Gas Protocol is also committed to updating its guidance to better reflect market-based mechanisms for Scope 1 and 3 inventory purposes, adding to the existing ability to use Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs) for Scope 2. SBTi is working with the Integrity Council for the Voluntary Carbon Market (IC-VCM) and the Voluntary Carbon Market Initiative (VCMI) to develop more harmony in guidance. VCMI already issued its own guidance outlining tiers for claims corporates can make when purchasing credits, setting a foundation that SBTi is now building upon with even greater incentives. 

These updates are a significant step forward in embracing a more holistic view of corporate decarbonization strategies, including both internal efforts and external investments that can support and build capacity within the broader climate action ecosystem.

A catalyst for increased demand

The implications of SBTi’s enhanced guidelines for the voluntary carbon market are profound. A more inclusive approach to Scope 3 decarbonization could inspire a surge in corporate climate action, stimulating investments in climate technology and potentially reducing overall abatement costs. 

Recent research from MSCI Carbon Markets indicates that allowing carbon credits for decarbonization efforts could lead to a 20% increase in companies setting SBTi targets and generate more than $19 billion annually in new carbon credit purchases. This increase in buyers will accelerate the demand for higher-quality credits issued under robust methodologies and backed up by strong data lineage. Regulators are increasing scrutiny to prevent greenwashing and tightening climate-related disclosure requirements, and these emerging regulatory regimes will further help to mature the carbon markets on which corporations will rely for offsetting Scope 3 emissions. 

Actionable steps for corporations

Now that SBTi recognizes the essential role of environmental attribute certificates, there is no excuse for leaders to delay. A proactive approach will not only accelerate the path to net zero but also foster necessary innovation in industries like concrete. Companies can play a pivotal role in catalyzing decarbonization solutions by taking action:

  • Start now: Commit to near-term investments in innovative technologies that will deliver the emission reductions necessary to meet future goals.
  • Build relationships: Proactively engage with credit suppliers and technology developers now to secure supply, particularly since demand will likely rise due to more companies taking action.
  • Focus on quality: Choose high-quality carbon credits backed by data that ensure permanence and verifiability. Look to trusted groups working toward clear quality standards for guidance, including the Integrity Council for the Voluntary Carbon Market, the Voluntary Carbon Market Initiative, and the airline-focused CORSIA standard.
  • Refine your climate strategy: SBTi’s revised guidance is an opportunity to take a comprehensive approach to scope 3 decarbonization, which includes identifying innovative credit projects, such as low-carbon concrete insetting, which can be roadmapped into your value chain.  
  • Establish a BVCM pledge: In the absence of further guidance expected to come in July, use SBTi guidance as a roadmap for setting internal goals and budgets with the knowledge that investments outside your value chain may ultimately get counted toward your Scope 3 emission reduction plans.

How CarbonCure can help

Given the limited supply of credits currently available and the projected increase in demand, the time to act is now. To learn how CarbonCure’s innovative technologies can help your company advance toward a sustainable future with carbon emissions reductions and removal credits, reach out to us at

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