BLOG: How can I join the Race to Zero?

In this blog, UKGBC’s Member Engagement Manager, Ceri Mugford, reflects on the routes different organisations can take to join the Race to Zero.
Joining the RtZ

Published on

July 4, 2022





All UKGBC members must demonstrate their commitment to working with us to achieve a global transition towards net zero. In May 2021 UKGBC introduced new requirements of membership, as part of its role as an official Accelerator of the UNFCCC-backed Race to Zero campaign:

  • All UKGBC members must, at minimum, commit at the head-of-organisational level to take action that contributes towards the global effort needed to limit warming to 1.5C by 2050. All members are strongly encouraged to align their commitment with the Race to Zero criteria, and to formally join the campaign through one of its Partner Initiatives.
  • UKGBC Gold Leaf members are required to demonstrate their ambition and commitment by formally joining the Race to Zero campaign and aligning their activities with its criteria.

The Race to Zero campaign is accessible to a diverse range of organisations, businesses, political bodies and authorities – but whilst the broad and inclusive nature of the campaign is key to its success, the specifics of joining may not immediately be clear. In this blog, we run you through some of the most common routes that UKGBC members have used to join the Race, with some information to help you chose the right path for you.   

How have UKGBC members joined the Race?  

To join the Race, organisations and businesses must select one of Race to Zero’s official Partner initiatives. Partners are independent initiatives that act as funnels through which orgnisations can join the Race. Each Partner is responsible for managing its members and monitoring their implementation of the Race to Zero criteria. The ‘Business Partners’ and ‘Finance Partners’ tend to be most applicable to UKGBC members.

The majority of UKGBC members to date have chosen to join the Race via the Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi)’s Business Ambition for 1.5C . Currently, over 50 of our 101 member signatories have used this route, across a wide range of sub-sectors – including consultants, developers, product manufacturers and lawyers.  

However, the SBTi is not always the most practical route for all, especially smaller orgnisations. Notably, the second most used route into the Race across our membership is the SME Climate Hub. There are also several Partner initiatives specifically designed for organisations within certain sub-sectors. For example, the majority of our finance and investment members have chosen to join the Race through one of the ‘Finance Partners’, largely the Net-Zero Asset Managers Initiative or the Net Zero Banking Alliance.

Truly, there’s no one route that’s ‘best’ for joining, and many UKGBC members are a part of two or more Partner initiatives, benefitting from multiple sources of support.

Note: since time of publication, B Corp’s Net Zero 2030 and The Climate Pledge have been retired – members are being directed towards other appropriate Partner initiatives. See below.

What’s the detail behind the different routes?  

Below we have listed some of the routes most applicable to UKGBC members. For a full list of Partner initiatives, see here.

SBTi’s Business Ambition for 1.5 C

The initiative is led by the Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi) in collaboration with the UN Global Compact and the We Mean Business coalition, launched in 2019. Business Ambition for 1.5C is a commitment to reducing emissions in line with the SBTi’s Corporate Net-Zero Standard, making it a rigorous and credible route to ensuring near- and long-term emission reduction targets are set in line with climate science. The SBTi defines an SME as a non-subsidiary, independent company with fewer than 500 employees, and offers a ‘streamlined’ route for such organisations to set targets, with some limitations in its scope. A Net Zero Standard for Financial Institutions is currently in development – they can still join the Race via Business Ambition for 1.5C now, and commit to aligning with the Standard within 24 months of its release. Full FAQ from SBTi available here.

Learn More 

SME Climate Hub 

An initiative of the We Mean Business Coalition, the Exponential Roadmap Initiative, and the United Nations Race to Zero campaign. In collaboration with Normative and the Net Zero team at Oxford University, the SME Climate Hub provides a wide rage of tools and resources to enable SMEs to make a climate commitment, take action, and measure their progress towards emissions reductions.​ The SME Climate Commitment is the ‘official’ pathway for small and medium sized businesses to join Race to Zero. Over 5,200 businesses across 107 countries have already made the commitment.

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Planet Mark 

Planet Mark is an internationally recognised sustainability certification acknowledging continuous progress, encouraging action, and building an empowered community of like-minded individuals. It’s awarded to businesses, properties and developments that are committed to reducing their carbon emissions year on year. Their Net Zero Programme allows organisations to follow a six stage programme that allows them to deliver a credible net zero plan, and aligns with the SBTi’s Net Zero Standard. This programme is one of those that gives the most support to those who sign up, including workshops and masterclasses. UKGBC has chosen Planet Mark as its route to join the Race to Zero, and Planet Mark is also a UKGBC member! 

Learn More  

Pledge to Net Zero

The environmental sector’s programme to halve its own carbon emissions by 2030.  The pledge recognises the need for those in the environmental sector to demonstrate leadership and take strong actions to mitigate the most significant impacts of climate change. Pledge to Net Zero focuses on providing practical guidance and advice to members – many of which are small businesses – with a range of resources on their guidance page for the sector as well as case studies. Organisations that join the Race to Zero via Pledge to Net Zero also need to meet some additional commitments.

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Exponential Roadmap Initiative  

The focus of the Exponential Roadmap Initiative is to have its members halve emissions by 2030 – a date we know is crucial for keeping under 1.5 degrees of warming. Exponential Roadmap Initiative supports its members to halve emissions by 2030 through reports and resources such as its 1.5C Business Playbook and the Exponential Roadmap for Natural Climate Solutions. To track member progress, the Exponential Roadmap Initiative carries out climate performance reviews for onboarded companies once every two years, a process supported by an expert review group.

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Net-Zero Asset Owners Alliance 

Convened by the UN, the Net-Zero Asset Owners Alliance is a commitment to transition investment portfolios to net zero emissions by 2050 – in line with 1.5 degree warming. The methodology for target-setting is outlined in the Target Setting Protocol and is consistent with the IPCC’s no- or limited-overshoot pathways. NZAOA members are expected to update their intermediate targets every five years and to report on their progress annually both internally (to the Alliance) and publicly. All members’ targets are evaluated anonymously by a peer review group. Those members whose targets do not fully comply with the Target Setting Protocol are categorised according to the traffic light system as outlined in the Accountability Mechanism.

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Net Zero Asset Managers Initiative

An international group of asset managers committed to supporting the goal of net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 or sooner, in line with global efforts to limit warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius; and to supporting investing aligned with net zero emissions by 2050 or sooner. NZAM is currently gathering new signatories, receiving robust interim targets from current signatories and supporting annual reporting of progress on the ten point commitment statement with TCFD disclosures and robust Investor Climate Action Plans.

Learn more

Net Zero Banking Alliance 

Convened by the UN, this industry led coalition represents around 40% of global banking assets. Members are committed to aligning their lending and investment portfolios with net-zero emissions by 2050. NZBA recognises the vital role of banks in supporting the global transition of the real economy to net-zero emissions. The Alliance reinforces, accelerates and supports the implementation of decarbonisation strategies, providing an internationally coherent framework and guidelines in which to operate, supported by peer-learning from pioneering banks.

Learn more 

Business Declares 

Business Declares is a non-profit membership organisation that wants to use the voice of business collectively to push for real, meaningful Climate Action. As their name suggests, they are declaring a Climate Emergency and ‘recognise the complexity of making an authentic climate transition.’ Therefore they want to support businesses with the hurdles they have to cross to be apart of this. To be able to join, and therefore become a member of the Race to Zero, you have to have ‘an authentic commitment to making a climate transition – backed at the top and throughout the organisation.’  

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*No longer in effect* The Climate Pledge

The Climate Pledge stepped down as a Partner in early 2023, and instead became an Accelerator of the Race. All companies previously signatories to this campaign, who wish to remain part of the Race to Zero, are being signposted to re-join the Race to Zero via an alternative Partner initiative.

Learn More 

*No longer in effect* B Corporation (B Corp Climate Collective’s Net Zero 2030)

The above campaign was retired on 15th September 2022. All companies previously signatories to this campaign, who wish to remain part of the Race to Zero, are being signposted to re-join the Race to Zero via either the Science-Based Targets Initiative or SME Climate Hub.

Learn More

I’ve joined a Partner initiative – what next?  

The Race to Zero criteria are delineated in two categories: ‘Starting line’ criteria lay out common procedural requirements for all individual members to meet, below which members cannot fall if they wish to join and remain in the campaign. Known as the 5 P’s, these criteria require members to Pledge, Plan, Proceed, Publish and Persuade. These criteria apply to all members, who join Race to Zero through Partner initiatives. It is Partners Initiatives who manage the operationalisation and fulfilment of these criteria by their members. In addition to the below, there are also additional ‘leadership practices’ which map out example pathways for leading entities to light the way to a net zero economy.

The 5 Ps:

  1. Pledge – Your organisation at first must pledge to reach net zero emissions as soon as possible, and by mid-century at the latest. In order to have these targets within 1.5 degrees warming, you must also have an interim target to halve emissions by 2030. 
  2. Plan – Within 12 months of committing, the organisation has to have a clear and practical plan to achieve both long term pledges and interim goals. 
  3. Proceed – Take immediate action to follow these plans and therefore work towards achieving decarbonisation. 
  4. Publish – You must commit to publishing how the organisation is doing against these plans, at least, annually. This allows you to be kept accountable and show that real action is happening following your initial pledge.  
  5. Persuade – Finally, you must align external communications with your Race to Zero priorities, lobbying for policy that helps us all collectively reach this goal.

Want to find out more?

  • Race to Zero website here.
  • Full criteria of joining the Race to Zero here.
  • The Race’s to Zero’s Interpretation Guide here.
  • The Race to Zero Lexicon here.