Validating and communicating your net-zero target

The final part of our 4-part net zero series

You have a target, why validate?

Seeking validation for your target is a very important final step. You have already done the hard work in measuring your carbon footprint and getting internal approval of your target – validation is the cherry on the top. External approval from SBTi, the world’s most recognised net zero body, adds a huge amount of weight to your claims. It will send a very clear signal to your investors, lenders, customers and staff that you are committed to achieving your target. By marking your own homework, and not seeking validation, you miss out on the credibility that comes with external scrutiny and therefore, miss out on the enhanced communications opportunities that come with a formally validated target.

The validation process:

The SBTi has a 5-step process for validation. But before you get to that stage you need to ensure that you have all the information required to progress. By now, you will have carried out a baseline carbon footprint, made your organisation aware of the significance of 1.5°C and set a target that is in line with the science. The finale is to go through and complete SBTi’s submission forms and the good news is that they have consolidated these into: SBTi Corporate Target Submission Form, the Near-Term target Tool and the Net-Zero Target Tool. Sector specific guidance will apply for Financial Institutions, SMEs, and companies with significant forest, land and agricultural emissions, all needing to take a specific approach.

Once your forms are complete, it’s time to submit and select a validation date through SBTi’s booking system. A word of warning here; the timelines on this are significant. It is often around 6 months between submitting your application and SBTi’s target validation team reviewing your application. Please take this into account when planning your timelines.

Once SBTi’s target validation team get stuck into assessing your target, they will usually have some technical questions. If you are working with Simply Sustainable on your SBTi’s you will have a dedicated consultant to respond to these questions. In fact, we do all of the above for you, from your initial commitment letter, all of the way to helping you with SBTi’s questions.

Figure 1: The process of validation stages (

Communicating your targets

When it comes to communicating your target, if you are getting validation through SBTi, there is some very clear guidance and the initiative is incredibly prescriptive on what you can and can’t say. Upon validation, you will receive approved wording that you must use, but we also recommend that you supplement this with messaging that will better resonate with your chosen audience.

The Do’s and Don’ts of messaging from SBTi:


  • Emphasise the urgency of action.
  • Emphasise the importance of rapid and deep emissions cuts.
  • Encourage stakeholders to align with climate science by committing to net zero too.


  • Use the following terms when talking about your SBTi approved net-zero target: carbon neutral, carbon negative, carbon/climate positive.
  • Make suggestions that offsets will be used to achieve your near-term target or form part of your carbon reduction
  • Over-claim your commitment, it is better to be cautious than boastful!

Reporting your progress annually is a requirement from SBTi. They do not stipulate how you do this, but at the very least you are required to publicly disclose your carbon footprint each year. This could be in your annual report, sustainability report or your website. Our advice is that you make this as clear and as open as possible, stating how you are tracking against your target and providing narrative to support your data. If you are not doing as well as you had hoped, then it is always better to be open about the challenges and headwinds that you are facing.

Communicating beyond SBTi’s requirements:

The above Do’s and Don’ts come from the SBTi, and they are important to follow. However, we would also advise that you bring your target to life. In addition to the communication requirements outlined by SBTi, we would encourage you to think about your different audiences and how you tailor your messages to them. Your investors will want to understand how this supports the growth and success of your business, your customers will want to know how it impacts them, your potential customers want to use the information to inform their buying decisions and your staff will want to know what they can do to support your new level of ambition.

As well as tailoring your communications to individual audiences, it is also important to think about how you will communicate this on different platforms. Even within your social channels there will be variances from LinkedIn and X to Instagram and TikTok.

A key bit of advice is to not overcomplicate things. SBTi can be complex to those who are hearing about it for the first time. Do not make assumptions about your customers’ and suppliers’ level of knowledge. Start from the basics, the ground up, to create impactful communications. This is all about playing your part in tackling the climate crisis. Don’t get lost in the different scopes and your near- and long-term targets and make sure that you communicate the big picture effectively about why you are doing this. Check out our first insight in the series about what a net-zero target is and why it’s important.

We have always found the most credible communications to be those that are authentic. It is a huge feat to get through the SBTi validation process and shows great commitment, but we must be realistic that for many this is the start of the journey. Don’t be afraid to communicate the challenge you have ahead and acknowledge that there will be significant work required to achieve these targets.

If you are on the fence about SBTi or validation, please get in touch and we can chat through all the pros and cons.

Author: Henry Unwin, Head of Climate and Carbon, Simply Sustainable

Further reading:

Request a call back

Talk to one of our friendly experts at a time that’s convenient for you.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.