Firms Should Disclose Emissions to at Least One Carbon Registry

Firms Should Disclose Emissions to at Least One Carbon Registry

With companies increasingly calculating their carbon footprint or greenhouse gas (GHG) inventory levels, sustainability executives must decide whether to participate in and report emissions to a third party carbon registry. 

Several global and national programs exist. The major players include the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP), Carbon Trust Standard, The Climate Registry, and EPA Climate Leaders. We recommend that firms participate in and report to at least one registry.

Benefits of disclosure programs vary but include technical assistance, public recognition and peer networking. Enrollment in most programs is free or low cost. The larger cost consideration is the time commitment of reporting every year to each program in its own format. Another consideration is whether to join a program that requires a publicly stated reduction goal.

With more than 2,500 companies reporting, CDP has become the de facto GHG global registry, especially for multinational companies. CDP participation rates have increased considerably since the program’s endorsement by Walmart. Reporting companies have wide latitude in what and how they report, and the reporting allows plenty of opportunity for discussion of GHG abatement activities, such as energy efficiency projects. Disclosures to the CDP are usually public, so program participation can be thought of as an extension of your corporate responsibility or environmental report on your website. Initiatives are currently underway to improve comparability of reports across companies.

The Carbon Trust Standard was the first to specify the GHG inventory’s scope coverage, including some scope 3 emissions. In the U.K., more than 100 companies have registered, with more expected as carbon regulation continues to roll out.

EPA Climate Leaders and The Climate Registry are country-specific programs in the U.S., while Ademe’s Bilan Carbone program is based in France. Other countries have individual programs as well.

Unlike CDP, the Carbon Trust Standard, EPA Climate Leaders, and The Climate Registry programs offer technical assistance for the calculation of GHG inventories, often highly valued by companies just starting to report. Some programs, such as the EPA Climate Leaders program, require a public GHG reduction goal, which can be problematic in setting an initial goal if senior management is not prepared to do so.

Sustainability teams should consider participation in at least one, and possibly two, registries. Participation beyond two programs is often not worth the additional investment of time and money.

Paul Baier is a senior contributor and vice president of sustainability consulting at Groom Energy. He maintains a blog called Practical Sustainability.