Voluntary carbon reporting: Why bother?

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There are five main platforms to report carbon. Which one is right for your organization?

The geopolitical and economic fall-out of climate change is prompting the world’s largest investors to decarbonize their portfolios. To do this, they need to know how the companies they invest in are addressing climate change risks.

Reporting quantitative data on sustainability and carbon emissions can be challenging for a complex organization. The fact that many companies do it voluntarily is because this data is becoming increasingly more important to remain attractive to investors who must protect their portfolios against environmental risks.

The trend of voluntary disclosure has resulted in a proliferation of carbon reporting platforms, including the CDP (formerly the Carbon Disclosure Project), the Global Reporting Index, GRESB, GreenPrint and the Dow Jones Sustainability Index.

These carbon reporting platforms vary in focus, so it’s important to choose the right one for your organization. Some address a broad range of corporate social responsibility issues and business operations; others focus more narrowly on just carbon emissions or the environment; while yet others focus on specific sectors, such as the buildings sector.

  • The CDP is used by public and private companies, cities, government agencies and non-governmental organizations. The CDP holds the largest repository of corporate greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and energy use data in the world and is backed by nearly 800 institutional investors representing more than $95 trillion in assets. CDP recognizes top scoring companies in the Carbon Disclosure ‘A-List’ and Leadership Index.
  • The Global Reporting Index (GRI) is used by public and private companies and organizations. The GRI reports on the quality of reporting. It gives equal weight to an organization’s environmental, social and governance factors with a focus on social and governance aspects and transparency. It is the official reporting standard of the UN Global Compact’s more than 5,800 associated companies. It is among the oldest, most widely adopted and most widely respected reporting methodologies in the world.
  • GRESB focuses on the commercial real estate sector and is used by owners, asset managers and developers. It addresses environmental, social and governance performance, including reporting at the level of individual assets. Private and public institutional investors look to GRESB’s annual survey as the barometer of sustainability performance in the commercial real estate industry.
  • The Urban Land Institute’s Greenprint Center for Building Performance, in addition to reporting, is an online environmental management tool for real estate. Developed by 34 prominent real estate companies, its functions include data input using templates or automated ENERGY STAR connection; regular tracking and performance analysis for energy, water, waste and refrigerants; automated calculations of GHG emissions; an annual individual report for each member; and various forms of reporting that can be used to comply with GRESB, GRI, CDP and others.
  • The Dow Jones Sustainability Index (DJSI) is only for the 2,500 largest public companies of all types in the world, and only those scoring within the top 10% are included in index. The DJSI addresses industry-specific criteria and an equal balance of economic, social and environmental indicators, as well as media and stakeholder analysis.

There are clear signs that GHG reporting is likely to become mainstream, driven by carbon markets, shareholder demand and government requirements, including mandatory disclosure programs. As more companies offer monetary rewards for their boards, executive team or employees to encourage energy or emissions reductions, the result is that more organizations are likely to report improvements.


Simone Skopek is an Operations Manager in Energy & Sustainability Services at JLL. Simone has been pioneering programs at the firm that address sustainability and productivity in the workplace, as well as building resiliency and emergency management. She was one of the original creators of the Green Globes certification program and BOMA Best. Past careers include Critical Infrastructure Analyst with the government of Canada’s Public Safety department. She was also a high school physics, chemistry and biology teacher, and sailed around the world for seven years in a 30-foot sailboat.

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