CDP reporting

Written By Claire Siegrist


Every year, CDP and its partners request companies and governments to respond to questionnaires on their environmental impacts, risk management, and action plans. Responses are scored A to F for progress towards environmental stewardship. Organizations showing great progress are recognized on CDP’s annual A List.


What is CDP reporting?


Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP) is a nonprofit organization that gathers data on the environmental impacts of companies, cities, states, and regions. Reporting is voluntary and covers three domains: Climate Change, Forests, and Water Security.

Data is reported through an extensive questionnaire, which asks respondents to provide both quantitative and qualitative information. Examples of quantitative data include Scope 1, 2, and 3 emissions or the amount of water withdrawn from non-renewable groundwater. Qualitative data include policy details or environmental risk management strategies.

Reporting is annual and is typically open from April to July. Organizations are encouraged to respond every year to support year-to-year performance assessments.

Organizations are not required to have their responses to CDP verified or audited by a third party. However, using a third party verification standard for certain data points, such as verification of emissions calculations, may improve scores.

For a closer look at CDP, the organization and its mission, read “What is CDP?”


What is the CDP questionnaire?


All questionnaires are submitted online through CDP’s Online Response System (ORS). However, questionnaires for companies differ from those for cities, states, and regions. 

For companies, the process begins with a request from CDP (on behalf of investors or other stakeholders). Requests can be for one of the reporting domains or all three – Climate Change, Forests, and Water Security. Companies then respond to a sector-specific questionnaire.

The questionnaires include the following modules : 

CDP reporting questionnaire categories

Modules may vary by sector or requestor. For example, if requested, the company can also provide supply chain specific information or details on financial risk exposure.

For cities, states, and regions, the questionnaires are not requested by stakeholders. Instead, CDP supports other initiatives such as C40 and Regions4 with annual reporting. For these organizations, there is only one questionnaire, which covers:

  1. Climate risk governance
  2. Environmental assessments conducted
  3. Targets
  4. Planning
  5. Actions
  6. Forests (states and regions only)

In all cases, the questionnaires are aligned with the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD). The TCFD advocates for reporting of climate risks and their financial impacts. As such, CDP questionnaires now include questions on climate risk management strategies, governance, and metrics. For more information on TCFD, see “TCFD – what is it, and why is it important?”


What does a CDP score mean?


After responding to the questionnaire, organizations are scored on their “progress towards environmental stewardship.” Each questionnaire has its own scoring methodology, but the general principles remain consistent.

Organizations are scored with a point system, which results in a score A through F:

CDP reporting - General meaning Score

Who should report to CDP ?


Companies can be requested to report to CDP. In 2022, CDP requested environmental information from nearly 10,400 companies, on behalf of more than 680 investors. Nonetheless, if a company has not been requested, they are still welcome to respond to the questionnaire.

For cities, states, and regions, reporting to CDP depends on other affiliations or partnerships. For local governments, CDP supports reporting requirements for C40, Global Covenant of Mayors, ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability, Regions4, and the UNFCCC. Regardless of affiliation, any city, state, or region is welcome to report and benefit from CDP feedback and data insights from peer governments.


What are the best 2021 CDP report examples?


Every year, CDP publishes the A Lists of companies and cities. According to Paul Simpson, CEO of CDP, “The A List companies are leading the market in corporate sustainability, tackling environmental risks and setting themselves up to thrive in tomorrow’s economy.”

For companies, of the 10,400+ scored in 2021, only 270 made the A List. Some of those who achieved an A grade across all three dimensions – Climate Change, Forests, and Water Security – include: Danone, HP, and Unilever. A key differentiator for A List companies is verifying data with independent third parties, which demonstrates above-and-beyond commitments to environmental reporting.

For cities, of the 965 scored, 95 made the A List and spanned six continents. Some of the longest-running A List cities include: Athens, London, Hong Kong, and Vancouver. Overall, cities in the A List report twice as many climate adaptation measures and opportunities as non-A List cities, such as the development of sustainable transport and clean technology sectors.


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