Carbon Disclosure Project Helps Combat Climate Change Using Online Questionnaire

Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP)—which holds the world’s largest repository of greenhouse gas emission and energy use data—needed an easy-to-use online reporting tool for customers to submit qualitative and quantitative data. CDP collects and disseminates high-quality information with an aim to motivate investors, corporations, and governments to mitigate climate change risks. At first, CDP collected data through questionnaires that required hard coding by programmers, resulting in delays in processing information and providing feedback. Microsoft Services has provided a tool that allows CDP to configure questionnaires without any outside help. The tool has ensured that CDP has launched new climate-change services. Microsoft and CDP have entered a five-year commercial partnership, which will help ensure that CDP gets revenue from its customers to fund future development.


Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP) was launched in the United Kingdom in 2000 to collect and distribute high-quality data that motivates investors, corporations, and governments to mitigate the dangers of climate change. CDP works with 3,000 of the largest corporations in the world, helping them to put in place effective carbon emission and reduction strategies. It is a nonprofit organisation that has established the world’s largest repository of greenhouse gas emission and energy use data.

*“With this information, customers can make informed decisions that take into account corporate risk from future legislation, possible lawsuits, and shifts in consumer perceptions towards heavy emitters of carbon dioxide.”*

Nigel Topping
Chief Innovation Officer, Carbon Disclosure Project

CDP recognises companies with high-quality disclosure of carbon emissions as top-scoring companies in its Carbon Disclosure Leadership Index. These scores are calculated according to a standardised methodology that measures whether—and how well—a company responds to each section of a complex questionnaire.

The organisation now represents 534 institutional investors, with a combined U.S.$64 trillion under management. Its workload—both in the total number of disclosures by customers and the range of disclosed data collected—has grown significantly over the past two years. Much of this data has never been assembled before, and part of the challenge has been to work with major technology vendors to solicit the information through an online resource system application.

Nigel Topping, Chief Innovation Officer at Carbon Disclosure Project, says: “With this information, customers can make informed decisions that take into account corporate risk from future legislation, possible lawsuits, and shifts in consumer perceptions towards heavy emitters of carbon dioxide. CDP wanted to expand the range of its work by creating new questionnaires to cover, among other projects, water consumption by major corporations, their supply chains, including owners of supermarket businesses, and energy consumption by the world’s major cities. Our previous process was time consuming and inefficient, which is why we needed help from IT companies.”


For CDP to fulfil its mission to combat climate change, the organisation decided that it needed to focus on IT and bring its infrastructure up to enterprise standards. Topping says: “Rather than develop a set of software for each new questionnaire, we wanted a configuration environment that could be designed by experts and then modified and managed by our business programme owners at CDP.”

Microsoft Services designed the architecture for the solution using Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007 lists to specify content and structure that in turn drive the rendering of the complex questionnaires. The process stores data in an extensible markup language (XML) document that can be transformed and repurposed as required through downstream reporting and analysis.

The questionnaires integrate with the CDP customer relationship management (CRM) system running on Microsoft Dynamics CRM, ensuring that disclosure details reside in a single place to avoid duplicate entries. It gives companies making disclosures about their carbon footprint a view across a range of programmes in which they’re participating.

Nine developers in three Microsoft Services locations—London, Reading, and India—used a suite of other Microsoft technologies, including Microsoft Visual Studio 2005 Team Foundation Server, the Microsoft .NET Framework 3.5 development system, Microsoft ASP.NET, and Windows Communication Foundation. Microsoft Services provided CDP with 500 days of support. “Microsoft Services stepped in at short notice and therefore had to mobilise quickly. The timescales were tight but the team hit the launch date,” says Topping. Importantly, the Microsoft Services team used its experience and intellectual property from several previous engagements involving SharePoint.

With a view to the future, CDP has now taken on a Microsoft Services Enterprise Strategy Consultant to help develop its infrastructure further. In addition to organisations providing their information directly to CDP through the website, they can now contribute to third-party organisations that will then be able to make their own input to CDP. Topping adds: “This should help expand the reach of CDP by making it easier for a larger number of organisations to contribute.”


*“Development time has been shortened by up to three months without using hard code. With 82 per cent of the world’s biggest companies disclosing, this is crucial.” *

Nigel Topping
Chief Innovation Officer, Carbon Disclosure Project

The five-year commercial partnership between Microsoft and CDP will produce revenue for CDP that can be reinvested in future development. Due to input from Microsoft Services, CDP can configure its own questionnaires and publish them quickly and cost efficiently. Topping says: “Microsoft Services focused on the project from the start and demonstrated a pragmatic approach to delivery against a tight deadline.”

CDP Enters Five-Year Partnership with Microsoft Services

Microsoft and CDP have entered a five-year commercial partnership, which will help ensure that CDP gets revenue from its customers to fund future development.

From a Microsoft perspective, its investment—amounting to U.S.$3 million over the first two years—aligns with the three pillars of Microsoft environmental sustainability policies. These are to reduce energy consumption, monitor performance, and rethink processes.

Rob Bernard, Chief Environmental Strategist at Microsoft, says: “Microsoft sees IT as an indispensable ingredient of any recipe designed to improve energy efficiency, while at the same time stressing the need for innovation, and practising what you preach.”

The commercial partnership between Microsoft Services and CDP means that the longer term development costs of the project can be met by providing value-added services to CDP customers, such as detailed reporting. Using technology implemented by Microsoft Services has reinforced the prominent position of CDP in climate-change reporting worldwide.

CDP Publishes New Questionnaires Faster and More Cost Effectively

The experience developed by Microsoft Services in a previous environmental sustainability project proved invaluable to both parties.

Topping says: “Microsoft Services was the most appropriate partner for the architecture work because of its commitment to environmental sustainability. Microsoft Services had gained previous experience in establishing reporting tools for carbon emissions by working with Project Two Degrees, a joint venture between Microsoft and the Clinton Climate Initiative.

“Most importantly, Microsoft Services has in-depth expertise in application development. We had a way of managing questionnaires before, but it wasn’t scalable. CDP now has the capacity to produce questionnaires in a more efficient, flexible and cost-effective way. Development time has been shortened by up to three months without using hard code. With 82 per cent of the world’s biggest companies disclosing, this is crucial. We’re using a common infrastructure, which is based on Microsoft technologies and integrates easily with other Microsoft products.”

This, in turn, allows CDP to achieve its objective of re-educating the boardroom. Companies that can connect to their performance evaluations faster and easier are then able to convert what is initially perceived as a risk into an opportunity. They can then align their businesses to meet carbon reduction targets more effectively.

Microsoft Partner Ecosystem Offers Support

Two Microsoft partners also supported the work by implementing the CRM system, developing the website and managing on-going hosting and maintenance. Topping says: “The design for the online resource system application was a triumph in terms of the quality of project management and development skills. Our business partnership with Microsoft Services has laid the foundation for a whole range of new climate-change initiatives by CDP.”

CDP Launches New Climate-Change Services

Among these initiatives is a water disclosure questionnaire through which corporations can assess how well they’re performing in cutting their water consumption. CDP is also producing supply chain questionnaires to assess the carbon footprint of major purchasing organisations by examining data from its suppliers as well as the parent organisation. Another new project is a cities questionnaire for the world’s largest cities, including London and New York. It will ensure that the local government organisation responsible for the strategic management of a metropolis can gauge how well it is responding to the challenges of climate change.

Knowledge Transfer Helps CDP Create New Questionnaires

The Microsoft Services application development work has made all this possible. Topping says: “CDP is now in a position to configure its own questionnaires, and, for the vast majority of questions, there is no need for coding. In fact, the water questionnaire didn’t require a single line of coding.” The extensible questionnaire model allows the creation of future programmes, while offering respondents a single view of their submissions for any given year. “Microsoft Services has been fantastic,” says Topping. “Its consultants understood our system requirements and worked hard to translate them into what was possible—their project management and communication have been great throughout.”

Microsoft Services

Microsoft Services helps customers and partners discover and implement high-value Microsoft solutions that generate rapid, meaningful, and measurable results. As the consulting, technical support, and customer service arm of the world’s leading software company, Microsoft Services enables the successful adoption, deployment, and use of Microsoft solutions and technologies for all customers, from the individual to the enterprise.

For more information about Microsoft Services, go to:

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Customer Size: Small Organization
Industry: Nonprofit
Country or Region: United Kingdom
  • Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007
  • Microsoft Dynamics CRM
  • Microsoft SQL Server 2008
  • Microsoft Visual Studio 2005
Organization Profile:

United Kingdom–based Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP) is an independent nonprofit organisation with offices worldwide. It holds the largest global database of primary corporate climate-change data.

Business Situation:

CDP needed to respond quickly to its customers’ requirements by being able to create questionnaires easily and making them available online.


  • Five-year commercial partnership
  • Faster and more cost-effective system
  • Co-working with Microsoft partners
  • New services launched
  • Successful knowledge transfer
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