The Future of Carbon Disclosure

October 8, 2010
  • Laura Ediger

    Former Associate Director, BSR

At this week’s launch of the Carbon Disclosure Project’s (CDP) regional report for Asia (excluding Japan) in Hong Kong, CDP’s Sue Howells showed a video message reflecting on the CDP’s achievements over the last 10 years and what the CDP sees for the future. As with most organizations focused on mitigating climate change, CDP’s view of the future “if we don’t succeed…” was rather grim, with glimpses of not just melting glaciers and increasing storms, but also resource conflicts and armed violence. When the lights came on, though, the discussion focused on the opportunities for improvement in corporate performance.

CDP has expanded their company rankings beyond disclosure—which measures how much companies share about their carbon footprints and exposure to climate-related risks—to now include performance rankings based on a scoring system developed with PricewaterhouseCoopers. The CDP team is working to make their information requests more meaningful and relevant to investors, and they are also partnering with Accenture, Microsoft, and SAP to improve the analytics and accessibility of their data.

One big headline of the CDP’s Asia report is that for the second year in a row, Korean companies are outshining their peers in the region in terms of both disclosure and performance. Even though the CDP doubled their number of survey requests to include 200 companies in Korea this year, they still received a very high response rate of 44 percent. Samsung Electronics and POSCO—a Korean steelmaker—scored at the top of the heap for the whole region in terms of both disclosure and performance.

All this was quite positive news for the believers of “what gets measured, gets managed.” But the truth is that there are still some giant, challenging steps between measurement and management. The scope of needed reductions outlined by climate change scientists is still mind-boggling, and the devilish implementation details continue to be elusive, as emphasized again in last week’s Economist special report on carbon and forests.

Asian companies are just beginning to consider the potential impacts climate change could have on their business, and the extent to which the CDP has successfully stimulated discussion of both risks and opportunities has certainly been beneficial. Undoubtedly, the next 10 years will bring a dramatic proliferation of data on corporate carbon management—one must hope that it’s put to good use.

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