Carbon Disclosure Project

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The CDP (formerly the "Carbon Disclosure Project") is an organisation based in the United Kingdom which works with shareholders and corporations to disclose the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions of major corporations. As disclosure of emission related data as CDP's primary activity, the quality of the data reported to CDP is key. In 2014, nearly 2000 businesses reported climate change data to CDP.[1] The value of CDP's reports for investors and NGOs is contested.[2] Furthermore, the quality of the data on which CDP's reports are premised is questionable.[3]


International agreements such as the Kyoto Protocol have proved problematic, and individual governments have been reluctant to develop stringent national limits on emissions for fear of big companies relocating their factories and jobs to nations with laxer regulatory regimes. The Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP) attempts to sidestep these national interests by focusing on individual companies rather than on nations. CDP brings together institutional investors to focus attention on carbon emissions, energy usage and reduction – wherever companies and assets may be located.

Some corporations have higher greenhouse gas emissions than individual nation states. Some leading companies have moved to become carbon neutral, but for others there is the scope to reduce energy usage and greenhouse gas-emissions through the adoption of energy-efficiency methods and business planning.


CDP works with 3000 of the largest corporations in the world to help them ensure that an effective carbon emissions / reductions strategy is made integral to their business. The collection of self-reported data from thousands of companies is supported by 822 institutional investors with US$95 trillion under management.[4] CDP operates from Berlin, New York, London and has partners in 18 of the world's major economies which help deliver the programme globally. It has:

  • Established the world's largest repository[citation needed] of GHG emissions and energy use data accounting for some 26% of global anthropogenic CO2
  • Started to establish a globally used standard for emissions and energy reporting
  • Examined the 250 major electric utilities globally (high GHG emitters)
  • Obtained backing from blue chip investors including HSBC, JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, Merrill Lynch, Goldman Sachs, American International Group, and State Street Corp.
  • Active staff or partner organisations in the United States, China, Japan, Germany, United Kingdom, France, Canada, India, Brazil, Nordic region, South Africa, Netherlands, Australia, and New Zealand, among others
  • Works with corporations including WalMart, Tesco, Cadbury Schweppes, Procter and Gamble, and many others to measure emissions through the supply chain.

Much of the data elicited has never been collected before. This information is helpful to investors,[5] corporations, and regulators in making informed decisions which take into account corporate risk from future government legislation, possible future lawsuits, and shifts in consumers' perceptions towards heavy emitters. RepRisk’s data will add to the current evaluation process by validating company-provided information and clarifying how a company’s policies, commitments and initiatives translate into performance.[6][7] An estimated $27 trillion will be spent over the next 30 years on new energy-related capital developments (power stations, fuel distillation plants, etc.). In line with ecological modernisation school of thought, CDP considers it vital that the right or optimally-suitable technologies are adopted. In particular:

  • Giving higher priority to energy efficient design in new capital projects
  • Declaring firm targets for capping and reducing corporate emissions
  • Identifying new low carbon business opportunities
  • Pricing in how, under different scenarios, the price of carbon emissions will shift the economics of alternative energy sources.

The process of companies having to respond to CDP delivers real changes in business practice resulting in lower energy use.[citation needed] In many cases this leads to a higher proportion of energy from renewable sources.

CDP has 501(c)3 charitable status through Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors in New York City and is a registered charity in the United Kingdom.

CDP Europe is a registered charity at the local court of Charlottenburg, Germany.

CDP's Programs[edit]

CDP operates in most major economies worldwide and channels information and progress through individual programs. These are: Climate Change, Water, Supply Chain, Forests and Cities. Its Carbon Action initiative which encourages investors to accelerate carbon reduction in high emitting industries and to implement emissions reducing projects that generate positive return on investment.

Climate Change[edit]

CDP's climate change program aims to reduce companies’ greenhouse gas emissions and mitigate climate change risk. CDP requests information on the risks and opportunities of climate from the world’s largest companies on behalf of 822 institutional investor signatories with a combined US$95 trillion in assets.[8]


In 2014 573 investors used the CDP Water program, collectively representing US$60 trillion in assets.[9]

Supply Chain[edit]

In 2015 CDP's supply chain program involved 75 corporations with $2 trillion in procurement spend. Corporations requested that their suppliers disclose information on how they are approaching climate and water risks and opportunities. Data was gathered from 4,005 companies worldwide.[10]


CDP's forests program acts on behalf of 298 signatory investors with US$19 trillion in assets. CDP collects information from companies through the lens of the four agricultural commodities responsible for most deforestation: timber, palm oil, cattle and soy. CDP’s forests program was first set up by the Global Canopy Programme Global Canopy Programme which remains a prime funder for the program.[11]


CDP Cities provides standardized reporting of emissions data, analysis of climate risks and opportunities and adaptation plans for cities around the world. The potential and need for this program is enormous since soon over half of the world’s population will live in cities.[12] CDP Cities provides an easy to use global platform based upon a simple questionnaire that allows city governments to publicly disclose their greenhouse gas emission data. One of the greatest values of the annual report, first released in June 2011, is to city leaders who can identify peers who are addressing similar risks and issues with new and innovative strategies for reducing carbon emissions and for mitigating risk from climate change.

Carbon Action Initiative[edit]

Carbon Action is an investor-led initiative which aims to accelerate company action on carbon reduction and energy efficiency activities which deliver a satisfactory return on investment.

304 investors with US$22 trillion in assets under management ask the world’s highest emitting companies to take three specific actions in response to climate change:

  • Make emissions reductions (year-on-year);
  • With targets publicly disclosed; and
  • ROI-positive investments in projects

In 2015, the Carbon Action request has gone to over 1300 companies across 17 high emitting industries.[13]

CDP launched a new research series at the beginning of 2015, taking a sector by sector approach.[14]

Leadership Indices[edit]

CDP recognizes companies with high-quality disclosure as top scoring companies in the Climate Disclosure Leadership Index (CDLI).

CDLI scores are calculated according to a standardized methodology which measures whether and how well, a company responds to each question. A company is awarded points if it reports its greenhouse gas emissions, but the actual amount of emissions does not affect its score. CDLI scores provide a valuable perspective on the range and quality of responses to CDP’s questionnaire.

Relevance of CDP[edit]

Studies on the Carbon Disclosure Project[edit]

  • N. Misani and S. Pogutz. Unraveling the effects of environmental outcomes and processes on financial performance: A non-linear approach. "Ecological Economics", 109: 150-160, 2015.
  • F. Gasbarro, F. Rizzi and M. Frey. Adaptation Measures of Energy and Utility Companies to Cope with Water Scarcity Induced by Climate Change. "Business Strategy and the Environment". July 2014.
  • B. Doda, C. Gennaioli, A. Groundson and R. Sullivan. Are corporate carbon management practices reducing corporate carbon emissions?. "Corporate Social Responsibility and Environmental Management" January 2015
  • E.M. Matsumura, R. Prakash and S. Vera-Munoz. Firm-Value Effects of Carbon Emissions and Carbon Disclosures. "The Accounting Review" 89(2): 695-724, 2014
  • D.C. Matisoff, D.S. Noonan and J.J. O'Brien. Convergence in environmental reporting: Assessing the carbon disclosure project. "Business Strategy and the Environment" 22(5): 285-305, 2013
  • C. Saka and T. Oshika. Disclosure effects, carbon emissions and corporate value. "Sustainability Accounting, Management and Policy Journal". 5(1):22-45, 2014
  • E-H. Kim and T. Lyon. When Does Institutional Investor Activism Increase Shareholder Value?: The Carbon Disclosure Project. "The B.E. Journal of Economic Analysis and Policy". 11(1), 2014
  • A. Harmes. The limits of carbon disclosure: Theorizing the business case for investor environmentalism. Global Environmental Politics, 11(2):98–119, 2011.
  • A. Kolk, D. Levy, and J. Pinkse. Corporate Responses in an Emerging Climate Regime: The Institutionalization and Commensuration of Carbon Disclosure. European Accounting Review, 17(4):719–745, Dec. 2008.
  • B.W. Lewis, J.L. Walls, and G.W.S. Dowell. Difference in Degrees: CEO Characteristics and Firm Environmental Disclosure. Strategic Management Journal, 35(5): 712-722, May, 2014.
  • C.F. Jira and M.W. Toffel. Engaging Supply Chains in Climate Change. Manufacturing & Service Operations Management, 2013.
  • E.M. Reid and M.W. Toffel. Responding to Public and Private Politics: Corporate Disclosure of Climate Change Strategies. Strategic Management Journal, 30(11): 1157–1178, Nov. 2009.

Corporate Recognition of the CDP[edit]

The CDP represents 822 institutional investors, holding US$95 trillion in assets.[15] In 2010, CDP was called "The most powerful green NGO you've never heard of" by the Harvard Business Review.[16] In 2012 it won the Zayed Future Energy Prize.[17]

Corporate Participants[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^
  2. ^ A. Kolk, D. Levy, and J. Pinkse. Corporate Responses in an Emerging Climate Regime: The Institutionalization and Commensuration of Carbon Disclosure. European Accounting Review, 17(4):719–745, Dec. 2008.
  3. ^ Analysis of corporate submission of data to voluntary carbon disclosure ranking projects questions the quality of data: relevant for understanding the CDP is then that while some corporate data may be disclosed, whether that data is any good is a completely different issue. Lippert, I. (2013). Enacting Environments: An Ethnography of the Digitalisation and Naturalisation of Emissions. PhD thesis, Augsburg University, Philosophisch-Sozialwissenschaftliche Fakultät, Augsburg. see Pages 256-279
  4. ^
  5. ^
  6. ^ "RepRisk provides ESG risk data for review of CDP’s climate performance leaders". 
  7. ^ "RepRisk". Retrieved 2016-05-31. 
  8. ^
  9. ^
  10. ^
  11. ^
  12. ^ Cohen, Joel, E (2003). "The Human Population: the next half century". Science. 302 (5648): 1172–1175. PMID 14615528. doi:10.1126/science.1088665. 
  13. ^
  14. ^
  15. ^
  16. ^ Andrew Winston (October 5, 2010). "The Most Powerful Green NGO You've Never Heard Of". Retrieved Oct 26, 2012. 
  17. ^ ZaYed Future Energy Prize, 2012 Winners "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2012-06-15. Retrieved 2012-08-27. 

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