Deep Dives

Preparing to submit your CDP questionnaire

Amanda Pike
May 10, 2023
Deep Dives

Preparing to submit your CDP questionnaire

CDP season is upon us! If you’re not familiar with CDP, it’s a non-profit that runs a global environmental disclosure system for companies, cities, states, regions, and investors to manage their environmental impacts. In 2022, over 18,000 companies disclosed through CDP. It is a foundational ESG disclosure tool used by major ratings agencies, suppliers, and other key stakeholders. CDP responses also align with other disclosure frameworks, such as GRI and TCFD.

The questionnaire is no joke. It takes a nontrivial amount of time to complete several dozen questions or more, depending on your response and whether you’re responding to climate, water, and/or forest questionnaires.

Given its breadth and level of detail, it’s a lot of work in a relatively short amount of time (Note: this year’s submission deadline is July 26, 2023). The best thing you can do to set yourself up for success is to spend a few minutes creating a response strategy. Your strategy should include: a target score, a target submission date, a pregame plan, data collection process, response drafting (possibly with mock scoring), review by appropriate internal stakeholders and submission owners, and finally a debrief when you receive your score.

To help make your experience a little smoother this year, we pulled together a few tips to help you optimize your time and ensure your score reflects your transparency, efforts, and successes.

Set your target score
Most companies go into CDP responses with a simple goal: to respond as best as possible to all questions. That’s a reasonable objective, if you are aiming to simply see how well you score with a given level of effort.

We recommend being more intentional. Decide on a target score. Maybe you’re aiming to get anything above D this year. Or perhaps you’re hoping to land a solid B this year to position yourself for A-list potential the following year. By first setting your goal, you can spend the right amount of effort on the right questions, which will save you time in the long-run.

What makes a good target?
How do you know what a good target is? Set your sights by listening to the stakeholders asking you to complete the survey. Is it a top customer who wants you to reach a certain score? Have you not received any requests yet, but are preparing for them? Knowing both your ambitions and target audience’s expectations will tell you where you should land.

Pre-game with key players
Be sure to start early and — before the survey is even published — give a heads up to everyone who’ll need to provide information. Don’t have last year’s questionnaire? Download a publicly available response from the CDP website. If you pick a company who scored well, their responses can also provide examples of how to answer questions.

Cut the fluff
CDP scorers are looking for clear responses to the survey questions. There are no brownie points for providing additional information. Use the scoring rubric to understand the details that will earn you points, and state those succinctly. Utilize the language in the question to formulate your response. Make it easy for the reviewer to find the information they’re looking for, and you’ll increase your chances of earning full points.

Do some mock scoring
The beautiful thing about CDP is that they provide their complete scoring methodology. It’s so detailed that you can self-evaluate and estimate your score. (Pro tip: have someone with fresh eyes do this.) This process is time intensive, so make sure to plan for at least a day or two of focused work. It’s worth the dedicated time, so you don’t come across any scoring surprises down the line.

CDP surveys can be an important component of a company’s approach to sustainability disclosure. Set up your team for success by defining what success looks like from the start, optimizing time demands, and reflecting on how to improve the process (this will save you time in the future). You’ve got this.

And if you don’t got this, reach out to our ESG strategy team with questions…or even just a pep talk.

Preparing to submit your CDP questionnaire
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