Over the last month, CDP (Carbon Disclosure Project) has released its assessments of how publicly traded companies around the world scored on the CDP’s 2014 Climate Change Information Request. I think 2014 marks a dozen years that CDP has been moving the needle on greenhouse gas (GHG) emission reporting.
On September 23, CDP released the results of its regional assessments. In Cisco’s case, CDP reported our scoring as part of its U.S.-based S&P 500 report. For the 2nd year in a row, we received the top score of 100. Another accomplishment that I think is especially meaningful is that we made CDP’s Carbon Disclosure Leadership index (CDLI) for the 7th year in a row. As companies have improved their reporting, disclosure scores have improved; the “room at the top” is a lot smaller (see CDP chart below).
Persistence is important with a long-term problem like rising GHG emissions, a problem with no easy answers since it’s so closely tied to the use of energy. GHG emissions come from more than just energy—agriculture and deforestation are big contributors—but for a company like Cisco, our impact is through the energy used (or not used!) in our operations, in our supply chain, and by the customers that purchase our products.
On October 15, CDP announced a new, global “A List,” which focuses on performance. CDP has divided company performance into bands from A to E for about five years, but they always paired performance reporting with their disclosure scores. Over the years, it’s seemed to me that disclosure got most of the publicity. I think CDP’s reimagining of their global report to focus on company performance is a smart move, turning the page from learning about the problem to actually improving performance by reducing emissions.
Oh, by the way, Cisco got an “A” grade.
I really like CDP. They’re a very credible advocacy group that while becoming very powerful—the proverbial 800-pound gorilla—they’ve maintained professional business processes and run an effective and ethical organization. I confess to smiling when I found out the global report wasn’t going to be a disclosure vehicle. “What are they up to?” I wondered.
Then I realized CDP was on the same journey as Cisco. “Disclosure” was our vehicle for self-discovery. Did we even know where our GHG emissions were coming from? Could we engage the responsible business functions to help measure them?
In hindsight, our improving disclosure scores were really an indicator that it was time to shift to a higher gear. Sort of like graduating from college and moving on to an advanced degree. With the the knowledge and credibility gained through the CDP disclosure process, Team Enviro at Cisco is turning its attention to outside Cisco, to both our suppliers and our customers. Our newer, bigger challenge is to help our peers and our partners improve their sustainability performance. We’ve set ambitious climate change-related goals for ourselves. We want to discover ways to share best practice so that we collectively improve our businesses while reducing our emissions.