Set targets

Set relevant targets for on-going management and increased performance.

Last updated: May 26, 2022


Once investors and financial institutions have identified impact associations and assessed their current impacts and performance, they can decide on specific targets that reflect their strategy and serve their high-level goals.

Setting targets

Increasingly, regulation, standards and other guidance are emphasising the importance of setting targets with reference to authoritative international agreements (e.g. Paris Agreements, the Sustainable Development Goals, the International Bill of Human Rights, ILO Core Conventions, etc.) and, where possible, to societal and ecological thresholds and/or reference values. This is important for ensuring the efforts of individual investors and financial institutions are consistent with a global perspective on sustainability.

The nature of targets can vary. For example, GHG emission measurement for the mitigation of climate change lends itself to quantitative target-setting against scientifically quantified thresholds and allocations. By contrast, human rights targets tend to be qualitative and process-based, aimed at reducing the risk of future instances occurring, e.g. ‘when applicable, to prevent, mitigate and remedy instances of adverse human rights impacts when they arise or could arise’. Where qualitative targets are used, they can nonetheless be associated with quantitative key performance indicators (KPIs), especially at the individual investee/client or asset level. For example, in the case of human rights, KPIs might include the number of recorded occurrences, or other metrics used to survey and understand stakeholder experiences.

When setting targets, investors and financial institutions can consider both the overall portfolio level and individual asset/client level. Portfolio-level targets can sometimes be based on single metrics, i.e. measurements that can be collected and aggregated across a portfolio. Whilst asset or client-specific targets may not always be aggregated at portfolio-level, they are nonetheless important for overall management.

With an initial understanding of their most significant impact areas (see Identify), investors and financial institutions can review their current practices and establish a baseline of their current sustainability performance. This can feed into their further prioritisation process, and enable them to set specific targets and action plans for ongoing impact management.


EU Taxonomy

Last updated: 2020

Regulation that sets out performance thresholds for organisations to classify their economic activities as “sustainable” according to European policy objectives.

For organisations

Use this resource to:

  • Identify sustainability topics: Find the economic activities that correspond to the organisation and review what the taxonomy says about likely impacts on sustainability. This can be an input into identifying sustainability topics to measure. This regulation is based on research connecting economic activities to likely significant impacts on six environmental objectives. Currently, research related to objectives of climate change mitigation and adaptation are most developed.

For investors and financial institutions

Use this resource to:

  • Identify: Find the economic activities that correspond to the financial institution’s activities and review what the taxonomy says about likely impacts on sustainability. This can be an input into identifying sustainability topics to measure. This regulation is based on research connecting economic activities to likely significant impacts on six environmental objectives. Currently, research related to objectives of climate change mitigation and adaptation are most developed.
  • Assess: Assess whether underlying assets are sustainable. Underlying assets that fall under the taxonomy regulation will report on the portion of their revenue, capital expenditure and operational expenditure that are ‘taxonomy aligned’, and therefore considered a ‘sustainable investment’ according EU policy objectives.
  • Set targets: Set objectives for a portion of the portfolio to be ‘taxonomy-aligned’. Regulation provides investors with a set of performance thresholds that have to be met for an underlying asset to be viewed as operating sustainably in relation to one the EU’s six environmental objectives. Underlying assets that are ‘taxonomy aligned’ are generating sustainable outcomes and are therefore also ‘Benefiting stakeholders’.

Financial Sector Science-Based Target Guidance

Last updated: 2021

Guidance for setting science based targets related to climate, specifically for financial institutions.

Use this resource to:

  • Set Targets: Set a portfolio target for Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights

Last updated: 2012

The UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights are a set of guidelines for States and companies to prevent, address and remedy human rights abuses committed in business operations.

Use this resource to:

  • Strategy: Adopt the standards and practices with regard to business and human rights so as to achieve tangible results for affected individuals and communities, and thereby also contribute to a socially sustainable globalisation.
  • Governance: Embed the human rights policy throughout a business’ functions.
  • Identify: Understand the responsibility of enterprises to respect human rights, depending on their scale and scope.
  • Assess: Implement human rights due diligence.
  • Set Targets: Design targets based on human rights due diligence assessment.
  • Act: Learn how states and companies can prevent and address negative impacts on human rights by business.
  • Monitor: Set up continued human rights due diligence for monitoring purposes.
  • Disclose: Make publicly available human rights commitments and processes.

Investing with SDG Outcomes: A Five-part Framework

Last updated: 2020

A high-level framework for any investors looking to shape real-world outcomes in line with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Use this resource to:

  • Identify: Identify and understand the unintended outcomes of an investors’ investments and their own operations. This assessment involves identifying positive and negative real-world outcomes related to investees’ operations, products and services.
  • Act: Explore examples of how investors shape outcomes through investor actions including: investment decisions, stewardship of investees and engagement with policy makers and key stakeholders.
  • Set Targets: Move from identifying and understanding unintended outcomes towards taking intentional steps to shape outcomes. 

Target Setting Guidance

Last updated: 2022

The Principles for Responsible Banking (PRB) have released a set of target-setting guidance on topics such as Resource Efficiency & Circular Economy, Biodiversity, Financial Health & Inclusion, Climate, and Gender Equality.

Use this resource to:

  • Set Targets: Set targets in line with the requirements of the UN Principles for Responsible Banking.

Target Setting Protocol: Second Edition

Last updated: 2022

The Protocol sets out the UN-convened Net-Zero Asset Owner Alliance Alliance’s approach to target setting and reporting. The first edition of this Protocol focused on the period 2020–2025. This second edition also outlines the ambition towards 2030.

Use this resource to:

  • Set Targets: Set science-based targets on financed emissions using short-term targets for a 1.5 degree Celsius aligned, net-zero world by 2050. 



A person, organisation, or country that puts money into an business or other organisation.

Source: Cambridge English Dictionary


A plan for achieving something or reaching a goal.

Source: Cambridge English Dictionary


Rules or guidelines for common and repeated use to which organisations demonstrate adherence with which compliance is not necessarily mandatory in law. Standards are created through a process of multi-stakeholder consultation.

Source: Adapted from ISEAL


Information or instructions on how to do something.

Source: Cambridge English Dictionary

Societal or ecological threshold

A level or range of performance that divides sustainable from unsustainable performance. These ranges are set with reference to social norms or planetary limits that have been identified through scientific research. Learn more about Thresholds and allocations.

Source: United Nations Environment Programme Finance Initiative (UNEP FI); United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) (The Cocoyoc Declaration, 1974); Kate Raworth


Apportioning to organisations or other human populations fair, just and proportionate shares of the responsibility to produce and/or maintain a resource at no worse than the level set by social or ecological thresholds. Learn more about Thresholds and allocations.

Source: Adapted from Global Thresholds and Allocations Council


Used on this site to refer to a security such as debt or equity issued by an organisation, or a physical asset such as land or a building.

Source: Adapted from Investopedia (definitions of ‘financial asset’ and ‘real asset’)


A standard of measurement. The words ‘metric’ and ‘indicator’ are typically used interchangeably. Metrics are used to measure the state of something at a point in time. Repeated measurement makes it possible to determine change over time.

Source: Adapted from Meriam Webster Online Dictionary


An entity or individual that can reasonably be expected to be significantly affected by the organisation’s activities, products and services, or whose actions can reasonably be expected to affect the ability of the organisation to successfully implement its strategies and achieve its objectives.

Source: Global Reporting Initiative (GRI); OECD Due Diligence Guidance for Responsible Business Conduct; OECD Well-being Framework; Value Reporting Foundation (VRF) Integrated Reporting Framework

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