Navigating New Norms: The Crucial Role of Rebaselining in Sustainable Reporting

Explore the transformative power of rebaselining. We're unraveling how recalibrating your sustainability benchmarks aligns your GHG reporting with ongoing business changes and solidifies the credibility of your net-zero journey.

Written by Cameron Kelly on 14 April, 2024

For organizations striving towards sustainable goals, understanding and monitoring greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions is pivotal. The foundation of this journey often begins with establishing a "baseline year," which serves as the reference point against which all future progress is measured.

However, as businesses evolve, so does the context of their emissions. New emission categories might be added, or methodologies might change, necessitating a “rebaselining” of that baseline year. This article will dive into the practice of "rebaselining" - recalibrating those foundational metrics to ensure accurate, meaningful, and consistent GHG reporting.

The Significance of a Baseline Year

The baseline year is more than just a historical data point; it's a commitment. It provides a snapshot in time, against which all emission reduction achievements are compared. By setting this standardized foundation, organizations ensure that year-over-year comparisons are consistent, enabling them to track genuine progress over time.

Below is an example where the ‘baseline year’ is 2019, which represents 100% of emissions. As such, when an organization has set a target of 46% reduction in emissions by 2030, this is a reduction of 46% from the 2019 emissions total.

Net Zero Pathway 2

Aligning Rebaselining with Realities

As the business world is ever-changing, so is its environmental impact. Rebaselining is about adjusting that baseline to reflect significant changes within an organization. As companies grow, merge, diversify, or even shrink, their carbon footprints change in tandem. Rebaselining ensures that foundational metrics are adjusted, guaranteeing that any reported GHG reduction is true to the company's current structure and activities. This is backed by the GHG Protocol which states that the purpose of rebaselining is to ensure “meaningful and accurate comparison of emissions data over time”.

The Science-Based Targets Initiative (SBTI) Perspective

The SBTi is leading the charge on establishing clear and science-backed guidelines for GHG emissions and underscores rebaselining's importance. They recommend that organizations revisit and recalibrate their baseline when there's a 5% or more change in the base-year emissions. This diligence ensures that emission reports remain genuine, transparent, and aligned with science-based targets.

When Organizations Should Consider Rebaselining

While the SBTi offers a clear guidance to rebaseline when there’s a 5% or more change in the base-year emissions, rebaselining needs can arise from various scenarios. Below are a selection of the key criteria which can trigger the need for rebaselining, as set out by the GHG Protocol:


Base-year Recalculation Needed?

Scope 3 emissions rise to 40% or more of total emissions (Scopes 1, 2, & 3)


Significant changes in omitted emissions or target boundaries


Major shifts in company structure or offerings


Base year data, methods, or growth projections undergo major adjustments


Notable changes affecting target relevancy and consistency


Discovering significant errors in previous Scope 3 calculations


Minor errors accumulate over time


*Significant or major adjustments are typically those that lead to a 5-10% change in total of the category of emission, e.g. a change in methodology that leads to total emissions for business travel going from 100tCO2e to 110tCO2e.

Steps to Crafting a Robust Rebaselining Strategy

Although it can seem like a daunting task, we’ve broken down the steps to make the process more approachable:

For Sustainability Managers:

- Build the policy foundation: Establish a clear base-year review and recalculation policy.

- Document everything: Clearly define and document the baseline year and its GHG emissions.

- Establish transparency: Document, report, and communicate any recalculations, ensuring stakeholders understand the triggers.

- Stay updated: Continuously verify the base-year GHG inventory (overall carbon emissions footprint) to guarantee its accuracy and relevance.

For Travel Managers:

- Evolve with methodologies updates: Keep an eye on evolving methodologies that offer greater depth and accuracy. Advances in measurement techniques or even the introduction of new tools can impact overall emissions. Staying updated ensures that the metrics you track genuinely reflect the travel activities and their carbon impact. Any significant discrepancies can signal the need for a rebaselining.

- Monitor patterns: Keeping an eye on shifts in travel patterns, providers, or even business goals can signal the need for recalibrations in the travel emissions context.

Setting Up our Customers for Success

Rebaselining reflects an organization's commitment to genuine sustainability reporting. It ensures that as the business landscape changes, GHG emission targets and reports remain transparent, accurate, and truly reflective of the organization's carbon footprint.

For both sustainability professionals and travel managers, understanding rebaselining is vital. It underpins the credibility of an organization's carbon reporting and plays a crucial role in building stakeholder trust.

Interested in Thrust Advisory services for your company’s rebaselining needs? We're here to help! Reach out to continue the conversation.

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