The Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP) is an independent not-for-profit organization working to drive greenhouse gas emissions reduction and sustainable water use by business and cities. Responding to the CDP requires significant effort. Here are ten tips to help you get it done better.
1. Start early
Your CDP response includes carbon footprint data and descriptive text about how you are managing the risks and opportunities associated with climate change. Gathering the data required to quantify your carbon footprint can take several months, especially if you do not have regular data collection systems in place. If you start early, your life will be better.
2. Get a team (internal and external)
CDP’s template for drafting your response is more than 40 pages long. No one person will have all the information necessary to develop a comprehensive response. Make sure you have all the necessary company stakeholders on your team, and take this opportunity to further engage with departments you will need buy-in from.
3. Answer ALL questions
When reviewing responses, it’s amazing how many are incomplete. Even if you are not proud of how you answer a particular question, make sure to put something there. If you are just beginning to address a specific area, disclosing that can be a useful first step.
4. Do not cross reference responses
It’s frustrating for a reader to flip back and forth between sections of a report. More importantly, each question is scored based on your response to that specific question; and databases that include your response (e.g., Bloomberg) won’t cross reference your answer to another question. So whenever you are in doubt, repeat information that may be relevant to more than one question.
5. Use CDP Guidance and benchmark
The extensive guidance documents available from the CDP are very valuable for developing your response. Use them. Benchmarking against the highest scoring companies in your sector may also be useful.
Generating Business Value
How can you derive the most business value from completing your CDP response? The following tips will put you on the right path.
6. Think strategically
Responding to the CDP is more than simply ticking off a very long check list. Think about the strategic implications of climate change for your business. What are the real business risks and opportunities? What is the short list of things your company should do to manage these risks and maximize the opportunities?
7. Set goals
To paraphrase the Cheshire Cat in Alice in Wonderland, “if you don’t know where you are going, any road will do”. What are you hoping to accomplish with your CDP response? Is it mainly aimed at external or internal stakeholders? Are you aiming for a specific disclosure or performance score? Making your goals explicit will encourage you to develop a response that meets your company’s needs.
8. Understand your Disclosure and Performance scores – and benchmark them
If you responded last year, take some time to review and understand your scores and the feedback provided by CDP. Did you score poorly in a certain area because of a real gap? Or are you not including sufficient information about the full range of your efforts? How did your major competitors and leadership companies you respect score?
9. Consider the full value chain
Climate change has real implications for your operations, your supply chain and for your customers. Make sure to consider the full value chain as you develop your strategy and CDP response.
10. Use this process to drive change
Take advantage of this process to more fully engage and get buy in from your key internal stakeholders. What are your most important barriers to change? How can responding to the CDP help address these barriers?