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Home » Blog » ESG Fundamentals » The Carbon Disclosure Project Isn’t About Winning (But Here’s How to Do It Anyway)

The Carbon Disclosure Project Isn’t About Winning (But Here’s How to Do It Anyway)

The Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP)

The world of sustainability is brimming with frameworks, each a potential compass guiding companies towards a greener future. From the comprehensive Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) to the industry-specific Sustainability Accounting Standards Board (SASB), these frameworks provide valuable tools for measuring and reporting environmental impact. However, in this crowded landscape, there’s one organization that stands out for its unique approach and global influence – The Carbon Disclosure Project

The Carbon Disclosure Project is an international non-profit that has established itself as the gold standard for corporate environmental disclosure. Founded in 2000, Carbon Disclosure Project acts as a bridge between companies, investors, and policymakers, driving environmental action through a powerful combination of transparency and accountability.

Here’s what makes Carbon Disclosure Project truly distinct:

  • Focus on Actionable Data: Unlike some frameworks that emphasize reporting formats, CDP prioritizes collecting quantifiable data on critical environmental issues like climate change, water security, and deforestation. This data provides a clear picture of a company’s environmental footprint and its efforts towards sustainability.
  • Investor-Driven Influence: Backed by over 767 investor signatories with a combined US$92 trillion in assets, CDP wields significant influence. Companies participating in CDP disclosure are essentially responding to the demands of major investors who increasingly prioritize environmental responsibility.
  • Global Reach and Impact: With over 5,000 companies from more than 80 countries disclosing environmental data through CDP, the organization offers a comprehensive view of the global corporate landscape on sustainability issues. This data is invaluable for investors, policymakers, and researchers alike.

Carbon Disclosure Project: An Overview

Companies typically receive a request to disclose environmental data through CDP from two main sources:

  • Customers or Investors: Major players in your supply chain or investment pool may request CDP disclosure as part of their sustainability assessments.
  • Self-Selected Participation: Companies can also proactively choose to submit responses through a self-selected registration process.


While the core questionnaire remains consistent, some variations exist:

  • Supply Chain Module: Companies responding to customer requests receive additional questions specific to supply chain sustainability practices.
  • High-Impact Sectors: Companies operating in industries with a significant environmental footprint (e.g., energy, forestry) face a more comprehensive questionnaire with additional queries.

Streamlining the Carbon Disclosure Project:  The New Integrated Questionnaire

In 2024, Carbon Disclosure Project plans to introduce a new, unified format for the corporate questionnaire. This integrated format will combine the previously separate questionnaires on climate change, water security, and deforestation into a single, streamlined document. This change emphasizes CDP’s growing focus on interconnected environmental issues.

Now that we understand the different ways companies get involved with CDP, let’s explore the specific steps involved in the participation process:

  1. Registration: The journey begins on the CDP website, where companies can register to participate.
  2. Stakeholder Identification: Once registered, identifying your key stakeholders is crucial. This includes investors, customers, and other organizations interested in your environmental performance.
  3. Responding to the Questionnaire: CDP will send a tailored questionnaire based on your industry, stakeholder requests, and the new integrated format (applicable from 2024 onwards). Carefully review and complete the questionnaire, ensuring accurate and comprehensive data.
  4. Performance Scoring: Based on your responses, CDP scores your climate performance. These scores become part of a global benchmark, allowing for comparisons and industry-specific insights.
  5. Transparency through Reporting: CDP publishes your climate performance report on its website, making it accessible to your stakeholders and the broader sustainability community.

What Gets you a Good Carbon Disclosure Project Score?

Earning a strong CDP score is a coveted achievement in the world of sustainability. It signifies transparency, leadership, and a commitment to environmental responsibility. But how exactly does CDP evaluate companies, and what steps can you take to optimize your response for a top score? Let’s delve into the scoring process and explore strategies to make your CDP ESG disclosure shine.

The Carbon Disclosure Project Scorecard: Understanding the A to F Spectrum

CDP employs a letter grading system (A to D-) to assess environmental performance across three key areas: climate change, water security, and forests. Companies that fail to respond receive an F. Additionally, CDP recognizes exceptional performers through its prestigious A-List, showcasing companies leading the charge in environmental action. This recognition goes beyond environmental performance; it highlights a company’s commitment to Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) factors, a crucial consideration for investors increasingly focused on sustainability.

Understanding the Scoring Process: What Goes into the Grade?

Your Carbon Disclosure Project score hinges on the information you provide in the annual questionnaires. Here’s what CDP takes into account when evaluating your CDP ESG disclosure:

  • Level of Detail and Comprehensiveness: Does your response offer a clear and thorough picture of your environmental impact and initiatives?
  • Environmental Awareness: Demonstrates your understanding of climate change, water scarcity, and deforestation challenges.
  • Management Methods: Do you have robust strategies in place to address environmental risks and opportunities?
  • Progress Towards Action: Are you actively implementing solutions and demonstrating progress towards a sustainable future?

Key Dates for Carbon Disclosure Project in 2024

  • April 30th:CDP Questionnaires Released: The official CDP questionnaires become available for download. This is your chance to familiarize yourself with the specific questions and begin gathering the necessary data.
  • June 4th:CDP Online Response System (ORS) Opens: The ORS platform officially opens for companies to begin submitting their CDP responses. Sign in and activate your questionnaires to initiate the disclosure process.
  • September 18th:Submission Deadline for Scoring: This is the critical deadline for companies seeking a CDP score. Ensure all your responses are submitted through the ORS by this date.
  • October 2nd:Disclosure Season Ends: The 2024 CDP disclosure cycle officially closes. The ORS platform will no longer accept submissions after this date.

The Ripple Effect of Carbon Disclosure Project: Unearthing Hidden Benefits

Carbon Disclosure Project Statistics

While achieving a strong CDP score is certainly a mark of distinction, the true value of CDP disclosure lies in the treasure trove of benefits it unlocks beyond the letter grade. Participation in CDP triggers a chain reaction of positive outcomes, enriching your company’s environmental journey in profound ways.

Transparency Breeds Trust: Fostering Stronger Stakeholder Relationships

By openly disclosing your environmental data, you cultivate stronger relationships with investors, customers, and other stakeholders who prioritize sustainability. This transparency demonstrates accountability and builds trust, attracting partners who share your commitment to ESG values.

From Awareness to Action: A Catalyst for Innovation

The CDP disclosure process often acts as a catalyst for innovation. As you delve deeper into your environmental practices, areas for improvement will come to light. This newfound awareness ignites a spark of creativity, leading to the development of sustainable solutions and a reduction in your environmental footprint.

Forewarned is Forearmed: Proactive Risk Management

A comprehensive CDP response necessitates a thorough understanding of your environmental vulnerabilities. This heightened awareness empowers you to proactively manage environmental threats like climate change, water scarcity, and deforestation, safeguarding your business from potential disruptions.

Unlocking Green Capital: A Gateway to Sustainable Financing

Strong CDP performance can pave the way for preferential financing from lenders and investors who increasingly prioritize ESG factors. A high CDP score signals your commitment to sustainability, making you a more attractive candidate for green financing opportunities that support your environmental goals.

Benchmarking for Success: A Path to Industry Leadership

CDP scores offer a valuable yardstick to measure your progress against industry peers. This data allows you to identify areas for improvement and position yourself as a sustainability leader within your sector, inspiring others to follow suit.

Collective Action for a Sustainable Future: Joining a Global Movement

By participating in CDP, you become part of a global movement driving positive environmental change. Your disclosure contributes to a broader understanding of environmental challenges and fosters collaboration among businesses, investors, and policymakers. Together, you can create a more sustainable future for all.

Climate Disclosure Projects: Pertinent Hurdles

CDP disclosure offers a wealth of benefits, but navigating its intricacies can be tricky. Here’s how to address common gaps and ensure a robust CDP ESG disclosure:

  1. Bridging the Credibility Gap: Develop a Strong Climate Transition Plan

A significant gap in many CDP responses is the lack of credible and publicly available climate transition plans. The recent A-list criteria update emphasizes this, requiring a commitment to a 1.5-degree pathway.

Solution: Develop a science-based transition plan outlining your path to net-zero emissions. This plan should establish ambitious, near-term, and long-term goals aligned with the Paris Agreement.

  1. Aligning with the Evolving Landscape: Embrace TCFD Recommendations

Climate-related risks are on the rise, but many companies haven’t fully integrated TCFD recommendations into their CDP ESG disclosures. A critical gap is the lack of climate scenario analysis (CSA), a key TCFD recommendation.

Solution: Integrate TCDP principles into your CDP ESG framework. Conduct CSAs to assess potential climate futures and inform your business strategy, risk management, and financial planning.

  1. Setting Measurable Goals: Closing the Science-Based Target Gap

Transition plans often lack ambitious science-based targets (SBTs) aligned with a 1.5-degree scenario to achieve net-zero emissions. Many companies struggle to define clear and measurable SBTs, particularly for forest, land, and agriculture targets (FLAG targets) in relevant sectors.

Solution: Establish clear and measurable SBTs for both climate and, for land-intensive sectors, FLAG targets aligned with the latest SBTi criteria.

  1. Decarbonizing the Supply Chain: Supplier Engagement is the Missing Piece

Recent years have highlighted the importance of supply chain decarbonization, but many companies lack effective supplier engagement strategies. This gap hinders progress in creating a more sustainable value chain.

Solution: Implement robust supplier engagement strategies. Integrate sustainability considerations into your procurement processes and collaborate with suppliers to reduce emissions throughout your entire value chain.

The Carbon Disclosure Project: Considerations for Smaller Businesses

While the focus of this blog has been on maximizing your CDP disclosure experience, it’s important to acknowledge options for smaller businesses. Recognizing their unique needs, CDP offers a minimum version questionnaire. This simplified version caters to first-time disclosers and smaller companies with less complex operations.

Here’s a breakdown of key points for smaller businesses:

  • Reduced Complexity: The minimum version questionnaire streamlines the disclosure process, making it more manageable for resource-constrained teams.
  • No Public Scoring: Responses to the minimum version are not publicly scored, allowing smaller businesses to participate without the pressure of achieving a specific grade.
  • Private Scoring (Optional): If a customer specifically requests it, companies using the minimum version can receive a private score based on a different methodology. However, this score is not comparable to those derived from the full questionnaire and won’t qualify them for the CDP A List.

This option allows smaller businesses to gain valuable experience with CDP disclosure without overwhelming resource limitations. By participating, they can establish a strong foundation for future CDP disclosures and demonstrate their commitment to environmental responsibility to their customers.

Remember, regardless of your company size, embarking on the CDP disclosure journey is a commendable step towards a more sustainable future.

The key to CDP success lies in taking the first step. Measure your carbon footprint, engage your suppliers, and implement strong sustainability practices. With a solid foundation and a commitment to continuous improvement, you’ll navigate the CDP landscape with confidence and contribute to a greener future.

Remember, CDP is a journey, not a destination. Embrace the challenge and unlock the transformative power of environmental responsibility.


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