Voluntary Reporting of Carbon Emissions: How and Where?

Last January, the US Securities and Exchange Commission gave a nod to the fact that climate risk is a material business issue when it voted to require companies to disclose the impact of climate change on their businesses in their public filings. This fact was not lost on the participants of the LCA Sustainable Supply Chain Summit in Chicago earlier this month, who all spoke of programs to measure and reduce their carbon emissions and, in most cases, asking their supply chain partners to do the same.

Whether a company measures its carbon footprint at the request of stakeholders, to get ahead of competition and regulation, or simply to identify cost reductions, there are a number of reasons to voluntarily report this information, and several options for doing so. Sharing emissions data and reduction goals can help build trust among stakeholders and confidence among investors, and can help companies understand where they fall in relation to others in their industry.

The Climate Registry, the US EPA Climate Leaders program, and Carbon Disclosure Project are each organizations dedicated to increased transparency and comparability of greenhouse gas information. The organizations differ in many ways. In order to help sort out these differences, below is a short summary of each organization followed by a more comprehensive table highlighting useful information in more detail.

Climate Registry


The Climate Registry is a nonprofit collaboration among North American states, provinces, territories and Native Sovereign Nations that sets consistent and transparent standards to calculate, verify and publicly report greenhouse gas emissions into a single registry.

US EPA Climate Leaders


Climate Leaders is an EPA industry-government partnership that works with companies to develop comprehensive climate change strategies. Participating companies commit to reduce their impact on the global environment by completing a corporate-wide inventory of their greenhouse gas emissions based on a quality management system, setting aggressive reduction goals, and annually reporting their progress to EPA. Through program participation, companies create a credible record of their accomplishments and receive EPA recognition as corporate environmental leaders.



Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP)

The Carbon Disclosure Project collects and distributes climate change data through four programs:

  • Investor CDP:  Climate change data is requested on behalf of 534 institutional investors to be used by financial decision makers in their investment, lending and insurance analysis.
  • CDP Public Procurement: This program is designed to enable national and local governments to ascertain the impact of climate change in their supply chains.
  • CDP Water Disclosure: Provides water-related data from the world’s largest corporations to inform the global market place on investment risk and commercial opportunity.
  • CDP Supply Chain: This program helps global corporations to understand the impacts of climate change across the supply chain, harnessing their collective purchasing power to encourage suppliers to measure and disclose climate change information.

CDP’s Data is made available for use by a wide audience including institutional investors, corporations, policymakers and their advisers, public sector organizations, government bodies, academics and the public.

Voluntary Greenhouse Gas Emissions Reporting Options

The Climate RegistryEPA Climate LeadersClimate Disclosure Project
Year Launched200720022000
Legal StructureNon-profit 501(c)3 organizationProgram of the US EPA, a Federal agencyThe Carbon Disclosure Project is a UK Registered Charity no. 1122330 and a company limited by guarantee registered in England no. 05013650. In the US, the Carbon Disclosure Project is a special project of Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors with United States IRS 501(c)(3) charitable status.
Geographic ScopeNorth AmericaUnited StatesGlobal
MembershipSubmit a Statement of Intent; tiered annual fee structure. Annual fees range from $450 to $10,000.Large companies become Partners, while small companies join the Small Business Network. (A company is considered a small business if it purchases less than 15 million kWh of electricity, 1 million gallons of transportation fuel and two million therms of natural gas annually.)• Reporting members: Reporting to CDP is free for all reporting organizations, with option for additional support with $12,000 membership
• Signatory members: Three levels of signatory membership ranging from free to $8,000 annually
Scope of Member Commitment• Identify all sources of GHG emissions
• Calculate emissions according to The Climate Registry Protocols
• Verify emissions with an ANSI accredited Registry recognized Verification Body
• Report verified, entity-wide emissions data to the public through The Climate Registry website.
• Develop a corporate-wide GHG inventory.
• Set an aggressive corporate-wide GHG emissions reduction goal to be achieved over five to 10 years.
• Partners report inventory data annually and document progress toward emissions reduction goal. (Small Business Network members report after reaching their goal.)
• Achieve long-term GHG reduction goal.
• Publicize achievements through Climate Leaders.
Responses of reporting members include corporate emissions reduction targets and energy use; information on the risks and opportunities companies face from climate change, and management discussion and analysis on strategies to address climate change – including emissions trading.
Reporting Protocol UsedGeneral Reporting Protocol (GRP) v. 1.1. This protocol is based on the WRI/WBCSD GHG Protocol* and ISO 14064-1 standard.Climate Leaders Greenhouse Gas Inventory Guidance, based on the GHG Protocol*No
Reduction goal required?NoYes; absolute emission reduction (not normalized to growth)No
Reporting timelineVerified 2009 data must be submitted to Registry by December 15, 2010.Partners that have completed base year reporting should submit subsequent years’ data by June 30 of each year.Investor CDP: May 31 of each year
CDP Supply Chain, Public Procurement and Water Disclosure: July 31 of each year
Third-Party Verification Required?The Registry requires results to be verified by third-party verifiers that have been accredited as qualified to undertake the verification process.OptionalNo
Assistance Provided?• Guidance on building a high quality, cost-effective GHG inventory
• Step by step assistance with measurement, reporting and verification
• The Registry’s online calculation and reporting tools
• Training and technical support
• Policy updates from our Governmental Board members
• A community of leaders from industry and government
Technical assistance encompasses all aspects of creating a credible GHG inventory, including implementing GHG accounting methods, and measuring, tracking, and reporting GHG emissions. EPA also provides an inventory review process to offer feedback on improving the accuracy, efficiency, and relevance of Partners’ GHG inventory data and management systems. The level of assistance will vary with the needs of the Partner and Agency resources.CDP provides a series of recorded webinars, workshops and in-depth training courses to support companies in the reporting process.Reporting members receive additional analytical tools, climate disclosure best practices, networking opportunities and dedicated support.
Data Publicly Available?Yes, through the Climate Registry Information System (CRIS)NoData is made available for use by a wide audience including institutional investors, corporations, policymakers and their advisors, public sector organizations, government bodies, academics and the public.
Existing Membership415Number of Partners: 195
Small Business Network: 109
• 82% of Global 500 companies reported to CDP in 2009
• 66% of S&P 500 companies reported to CDP in 2009
• 2,500 organizations in 60 measure and disclose their greenhouse gas emissions and climate change strategies through CDP

*Greenhouse Gas Protocol by the World Resources Institute and World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WRI/WBCSD)

Table Prepared May 2010 by Sheila Sheila Samuelson at Bright Green Strategy (www.brightgreenstrategy.com)

Ed Note: If you are passionate about sustainability reporting, please check out the 3p sponsored GRI Certified Sustainability Reporting course happening this summer! Please click here to  get more information.

Sheila Samuelson is a Sustainable Business Strategist at Bright Green Strategy. She has earned an MBA in sustainable management from Presidio Graduate School, and has sustainability experience in the public, private and non-profit sectors. Samuelson has helped Greensburg, Kansas work toward a sustainable recovery from the devastating 2007 tornado; worked with the San Francisco Department of the Environment; co-founded a designed a green business certification program for the area surrounding Dubuque, IA; and helped some of the largest global corporations measure and track their sustainability metrics.

4 responses

  1. Pingback: 5 Reasons Why GRI is the New LEED « Affiliates « How to get Rich blog
  2. For a grad school consulting project, I just calculated the ghg emissions for a small, Boulder, Colo.-based solar company, Namaste Solar. Their score was 74 metric tons. I’m trying to find reference scores that I can use to compare them — any ideas? They have just over 100 employees.

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