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Four Action Steps to Prepare for the CDP Climate Change Questionnaire

Words by 3p Contributor
Investment & Markets
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By: Stewart Rassier

It's the new year; have you set your environmental footprint goals for 2015 and beyond? Setting emissions targets can be a daunting task, but it is also a very tangible way to demonstrate a strong commitment to corporate citizenship.

More than 4,500 companies begin the process of measuring, managing, and mitigating their contributions to climate change by completing the CDP Climate Change Questionnaire, which is a key standard for environmental emissions reporting.

Why companies participate in CDP

Initially, companies participated in CDP because of requests from investors and internal stakeholder interest. While these factors persist, an emerging third factor is driving participation: Large companies with comprehensive supply chains are strongly encouraging their business partners to participate.

A company should consider participating in CDP to:


  • Understand the company’s exposure to climate change challenges

  • Assess its own environmental impact

  • Create a clearer strategy for addressing environmental impacts

  • Build better, more transparent relationships with their investors, suppliers, communities, and customers
Preparing to report to CDP

If you are a first-time responder or looking to improve your CDP score there are a number of actions you can take to increase your transparency and performance, including:


  1. Read and review the full questionnaire before you begin answering any questions. It may seem rather simple, but many respondents do not read each question completely or realize there are multiple parts to each question.

  2. Review responses from other companies. Transparency is important to CDP and this process, which means most CDP climate change questionnaires are publicly available on the CDP website. For first time responders, these questionnaires are a great resource to see the type of data reported and the quantity and quality of the data. You might even consider searching for industry peers to compare and benchmark.

  3. Processes and data management systems. The better your processes, procedures, and data, the better shape you will be in. Ask:

    • What data and information do I need?

    • Where can I get this information?

    • Who else within my company needs to be involved in this process?

    • What are my project plans? Deadlines?

  4. Strategy is important. Respondents have a tendency to focus on the numbers and data when responding to the climate change questionnaire, to the detriment of the strategy section. Review the strategy section closely and be able to clearly articulate why climate change is important to the business and how you are mitigating your impact in the future. Ask yourself: Beyond the data, what other information do I need, especially when it comes to some of the strategy questions?

Corporate Citizenship practitioners participating in CDP consistently tell me two things about their experiences responding to CDP. One, it is a lot of work. Two, it is one of the most credible and effective processes for demonstrating corporate citizenship leadership.

What has been your experience with the CDP questionnaire?

Stewart Rassier is the Director of Executive Education and Advisory Products at the Boston College Center for Corporate Citizenship. He has more than 11 years of sustainability education, communications and advisory experience working with leading companies worldwide. Stewart teaches CDP Reporting: Disclosing Environmental Impacts for the Center for Corporate Citizenship.

3p Contributor

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