What is the Carbon Disclosure Project?

As Andrew Winston pointed out, relative NGO newcomer Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP) has rocketed from a germ of an idea in its founder’s imagination to a serious presence in the global economy in just a decade. How? While veteran environmental organizations like Greenpeace encouraged change, the Carbon Disclosure Project made itself integral to change by partnering with businesses to measure their carbon footprint so they could work to reduce it.

Formed in the U.K. in 2000, the Carbon Disclosure Project sent out its first carbon data request to corporations in 2003, and 235 companies responded. By 2009, the CDP was receiving carbon data from nearly 3,000 companies in more than 60 countries, giving it “the largest database of primary corporate climate change information in the world.” Winston calls the Carbon Disclosure Project, “the most powerful green NGO you’ve never heard of,” but if your business is concerned about climate change, you are no stranger to the CDP. While organizations like Greenpeace and the World Wildlife Fund and are more visible to the public, the CDP concentrated on cultivating influence in the global corporate sector where it deemed it would have the most impact. And it seems to be working. The vast majority of the Global 500 (82%) report their greenhouse emissions and climate change strategies to the CDP in order to set reduction targets and improve their environmental impact.

“The first step towards managing carbon emissions is to measure them because in business what gets measured gets managed. The Carbon Disclosure Project has played a crucial role in encouraging companies to take the first steps in that measurement and management path,” said Lord Adair Turner, Chairman, UK Financial Services Authority.

Greenhouse gas emissions transparency is fast becoming a requirement for some companies, as global organizations like IBM and HP are requiring their supply chain to publicly disclose their greenhouse gas emissions as a condition of continuing to do business with them, and financial institutions like Morgan Stanley are reviewing the environmental impact of companies as they also decide who to conduct business with. As more and more companies realize that greenhouse gas emission measurement is the price of doing business, the Carbon Disclosure Project’s reach will continue to grow.

The CDP has expanded its programs to collect data for investors and about supply chains and water. Most recently, in October 2010, the CDP set its sights on municipalities, launching CDP Cities providing “standardized reporting of emissions data, analysis of climate risks and opportunities and adaptation plans for cities around the world.” Between business and city government reporting, it looks like the CDP could continue to corner the market on climate reporting. The Carbon Disclosure Project might not be currently known to the average person on the street, but considering its exponential growth and global influence, it won’t be long before its name is as common as the IRS.

Andrea Newell has more than ten years of experience designing, developing and writing ERP e-learning materials for large corporations in several industries. She was a consultant for PricewaterhouseCoopers and a contract consultant for companies like IBM, BP, Marathon Oil, Pfizer, and Steelcase, among others. She is a writer and former editor at TriplePundit and a social media blog fellow at The Story of Stuff Project. She has contributed to In Good Company (Vault's CSR blog), Evolved Employer, The Glass Hammer, EcoLocalizer and CSRwire. She is a volunteer at the West Michigan Environmental Action Council and lives in Grand Rapids, Michigan. You can reach her at andrea.g.newell@gmail.com and @anewell3p on Twitter.

2 responses

  1. What Kyoto and Copehagen lacked was a significant metric to hold accountability. Carbon is the key and world governments already think so as they chase their tails to create intelligent carbon taxes.

    Accountability is key and carbon is the measure. Once that is realized companies like ours can advance in assisting organizations improve their carbon footprints and develop greater environmental sustainability. Sustainability will be a huge cultural change for businesses but it will lead to amazing results.

    The Carbon disclosure project is significant and is needed.

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