Seven Tips for Your CDP Climate Change Response

  1. Don’t leave questions unanswered
  2. Quantify, quantify, quantify
  3. Take a stab at Scope 3
  4. Set reduction goals
  5. Have your data verified
  6. Focus on the tougher parts of the questionnaire
  7. Involve your non-sustainability coworkers

1. Don’t leave questions unanswered
Every required question in the questionnaire is scored for Disclosure, which means that unanswered questions will receive a score of zero out of the maximum number of points available for that question or set of questions. Furthermore, if you aren’t awarded Disclosure points for a question, you won’t be eligible to receive points in the Awareness, Management, or Leadership levels. So even if the data aren’t readily obtainable or the question isn’t even applicable, we recommend that you fill in all required fields to the best of your ability. It sounds silly, but even writing why a particular question is “not applicable” to your company or industry will net you a higher score than if you leave it blank.

2. Quantify, quantify, quantify
Top CDP scorers have quantification tools in place that help them measure emissions, the corresponding reductions, and the impact of energy reduction initiatives. Such tools range from home-grown Excel spreadsheets to robust software—with all of the tradeoffs of cost, ease of use, and data quality. Whatever you use, we recommend that you make sure it meets the following criteria:
  • The key performance indicators (KPIs) that are collected are customizable
  • Data can be collected uniformly from multiple sites, regions, or departments
  • Data can be collected in different units, and reconciled
  • Cost data can be collected as a backup to the consumption metric
  • There is some built-in error-checking of the data
  • You can compare data from previous years for validation and trending

3. Take a stab at Scope 3
To improve the CDP score and the quality of disclosure, you should first evaluate all sources of your Scope 3 emissions for relevancy, since identifying sources as “relevant/not relevant” yields more points than not evaluating them.

Before you clear your calendar, note that evaluating your Scope 3 emissions isn’t nearly as involved as calculating these emissions; a straightforward assessment for relevancy is sufficient. This initial evaluation also helps to clarify which sources will be relevant for your company to report on in the future. You can mark sources that might be relevant for future reporting, e.g. business travel, as “relevant, not yet calculated” to indicate that your company intends to calculate corresponding emissions in the future.

4. Set reduction goals
CDP looks for a suite of credible, achievable, and meaningful goals for emissions reductions. These are typically based upon current levels of performance, industry/sector best practices, and reasonable actions that your company can take in the coming year(s) – keeping in mind corporate priorities and realistic scenarios. We recommend developing and discussing reduction goals; they don’t have to be “stretch” goals, they just have to be non-trivial – and actionable.

Leading scorers base their emissions reduction goals on Science-Based Targets (SBTs). Targets are considered science-based if they are in alignment with a global emissions pathway that limits global warming to under 2° C. Companies follow the rigorous SBT methodology to contextualize their emissions reduction goals to their share of the corresponding global carbon “budget,” which is allotted to them based on their size and sector. The SBT initiative offers a few different methodologies to ground reduction targets in climate science, using absolute or intensity-based calculations.

For example, we’ve helped companies such as the information management company Iron Mountain, real estate investment trust Forest City, and European logistics and supply chain management firm Panalpina to set science-based targets, and to build roadmaps as to how they’ll achieve these targets.

5. Have your data verified
The “A” scorers, in our experience, have their data verified by an independent entity. Such third-party verification lends greater legitimacy to self-reported data, which CDP awards with higher scores.

We’ve helped many companies have their data assured for carbon inventories and GRI-compliant reporting. While an external audit can be a cumbersome process, it’s a required step to reach a “Leadership”-caliber CDP grade. The best “Leadership” performers can become eligible for the A-List.

6. Focus on the tougher parts of the questionnaire
Some of the longer, more challenging sections of the questionnaire present the greatest opportunity to improve your CDP score and quality of disclosure. For example, we encourage you to prioritize the Risks and Opportunities section. Although this section may appear daunting, it’s a core component of CDP’s mission to encourage companies, investors, and cities to take urgent action on climate change. Providing comprehensive answers to this section is a critical step that organizations must take to develop robust strategies to mitigate climate change.

To identify your company’s risks and opportunities for climate action, consider how you can leverage your company’s core competence to contribute to the systemic improvements in the low-carbon economy – whether it’s in design and manufacturing, software and other technology, analysis, or financing.

For example, our client Iron Mountain, the leading information management company, identifies its severe weather-proof storage facilities as an opportunity to help their customers develop climate mitigation strategies.

7. Involve your non-sustainability coworkers
Finally, we recommend that you don’t go it alone! You know that reducing emissions across the organization requires buy-in from many of your colleagues, including IT, HR, supply chain/procurement, operations, and finance. Draw upon these same departments across your organization to help fill out the CDP questionnaire.

Working with these groups early on in your CDP filing will prime them to understand what’s getting measured, so they can help you track and improve these KPIs. We recommend that you work with a multi-stakeholder internal team to craft stronger content for your CDP filing.

Need a hand?
We’ve worked with many clients to prepare their CDP filings, and have a strong track record of improving their scores. If you’d like to discuss our helping you with your filing this summer, please reach out to our CDP expert, Heather, at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Sustainserv #1 CSR Report Service Provider

Sustainserv recently moved up to the #1 position on the Corporate Register Top 50 list of Consultants based on the number of sustainability and CSR reports it has helped develop. Since its founding in 2001, the Sustainserv team has helped its clients develop more than 200 such reports globally, the most of any consultancy ranked by Corporate Register (, the global online directory of corporate responsibility (CR) reports.

Sustainserv has offices in Boston Massachusetts and Zurich Switzerland. Its team of consultants works with companies in a variety of sectors and provides comprehensive sustainability strategy, data-related and communications services to its clients, including supporting the development of GRI G4, GRI Standard and Integrated Reports. Its team brings a wide range of skills and experience, enabling them to deliver tailored solutions to companies wherever they are in their sustainability journey. Sustainserv is a GRI-certified training partner in Switzerland, and regularly offers workshops, training courses and seminars in its Boston and Zurich locations.


Matthew Gardner, a Managing Partner and co-founder of Sustainserv said “Sustainability reporting represents the culmination of a company’s internal investment in good sustainability and corporate responsibility programs. A key component of such programs is the clear, creative and engaging communication of your progress, your successes and failures, and your strategic vision for how sustainability and corporate responsibility fit into your overall value creation process. We take great pride in our team’s ability to take complex information, present it in context, and do so in a creative manner.”

"We have been working with Sustainserv for a number of years on all aspects of our corporate sustainability program.” Said Lindsay Zingg, Global Head of Quality, Health, Safety, Environment and Sustainability at Panalpina World Transport, a Swiss-based global logistics provider. “Their team has years of experience, they bring new and innovative ideas to the table to suit our business needs, and they have helped us continually move our sustainability reporting forward each and every year in a very professional and supportive manner.”

“The Sustainserv team has become a key collaborator as we make progress on our CR and ESG action plan” said Kevin Hagen, Director of Corporate Responsibility at Iron Mountain. “In addition to helping us improve our reporting process, their global experience and perspective has become invaluable to our strategic thinking. They are great at tactfully answering the questions I should have asked.”

Stephan Lienin, Managing Partner of Sustainserv based in the Zurich office said “We’re delighted that our years of hard work is gaining recognition. Corporate reporting is a fast-moving field, requiring us to always be on the lookout for new and better ways to help companies tell their stories.”

GRI Certified Training

datesSustainserv offers GRI-certified training courses for sustainability reporting.

There are a large number of published sustainability reports and sustainability practitioners must find a way to present their company's performance in a comprehensive and comparable way.

The Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) provides a framework for transparent communication of sustainability performance.

In our GRI certified training courses, you will receive an introduction to the GRI Standards and an overview of trends in sustainability reporting, practical guidance and tools for the introduction and optimization of sustainability reporting in your company.

With the creation of over 250 GRI reports - which all successfully reached the desired GRI service - Sustainserv is the Top 1 service provider world-wide according to

The GRI training courses are offered as two-day courses (2 x 8 hours) or as half-day courses (advanced) at a central location in Zurich. Presentations, case studies, group exercises and discussions help participants apply the course content actively and strengthen the learning experience. See here for more information on next courses.

Flyer about the training courses

Successful GRI Standards Launch Event

Last week, we hosted the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) Standards Launch Event in Zurich together with BrownFlynn, SIX Group and Swiss Prime Site. Eager to learn about the new GRI Standards and the latest developments in sustainability reporting, 160 people joined the event held at the Swiss Stock Exchange.

The session kicked off with an inspirational talk from Tim Mohin, GRI’s new Chief Executive. Following him, our Managing Partner Stephan Lienin delivered the keynote address, where he provided ample insights to recent developments in sustainability reporting in Switzerland. On the basis of the Sustainability Report of our client Swiss Prime Site, Stephan Lienin then shared our experience applying the recently-launched GRI Standards. The Sustainability Report that was published as part of the Swiss Prime Site annual report 2016 is one of the first reports worldwide based on the new GRI Standards. Furthermore, Stephan Lienin emphasized the importance of targeting sustainability communications to the distinct needs of stakeholders. Using the example of our client Swiss Life he demonstrated how our “Analyst Download” service helps to better enable investors and analysts to find the ESG-information they are looking for.

GRI Launch Event

Following the introduction to the new GRI Standards by Bastian Buck from GRI, attendees had the opportunity to direct their questions to the experts who have been instrumental in developing the new Standards, and to Tim Mohin who provided additional insights into future developments at GRI. In the following panel discussion Stephan Lienin elaborated on the importance of sustainability reporting for different types of businesses together with Samuel Schweizer from Ernst Schweizer AG, Lilian Furrer from Adecco Group, Urs Baumann from Swiss Prime Site AG and Daniel Kaufmann from Clariant. The second panel discussions included representatives from SIX Group, RobecoSAM, UBS and UNCTAD and addressed the question of how to make sustainability information more accessible to stakeholders. The event wrapped up with a lunch which offered opportunities to deepen the discussion and network with fellow peers.

If you were not able to join us at this versatile event, or if you would like to know more about sustainability reporting, feel free to reach out to us or maybe join us at a GRI-certified training that we offer on the new Standards. For more information on our training schedule please visit: