CDP to merge with forest peer to create comprehensive natural capital disclosure system

Carbon Disclosure Project to absorb Forest Footprint Disclosure Project

The Carbon Disclosure Project, which gathers data on behalf of 655 institutional investors with $78trn (€62.3bn) in assets, is to absorb its peer organisation the Forest Footprint Disclosure Project (FFD) in a merger that aims to create the world’s “most comprehensive natural capital disclosure system”.

The CDP and the Global Canopy Programme, the UK-based not-for-profit incubator group, said the alliance would see the latter’s FFD merge with the CDP over the next two years. The merger is an unusual development in the not-for-profit sector.

It means the CDP will be a disclosure system for carbon, water and, now, forests.

The FFD, which was launched in 2009, seeks disclosure from companies on their exposure to deforestation. In 2011, it sent out voluntary disclosure requests to 360 of the largest companies worldwide on behalf of 74 financial institutions with more than $7trn in assets. The FFD already worked with the CDP to minimise overlap and duplication.

Among the FFD’s investor backers are major asset owners such as APG Asset Management, the California State Teachers’ Retirement System (CalSTRS), the Connecticut Retirement Plans And Trust Funds, the Environment Agency Active Pension Fund, Norges Bank Investment Management, PGGM Investments, Railpen Investments and VicSuper. The group is also backed by numerous asset management and other groups (full list).

“For the first time corporate disclosure on the earth’s atmosphere, water and forests will come under one roof, resulting in the world’s largest and most comprehensive natural capital disclosure system,” the pair said.CDP Chief Executive Paul Simpson said: “Bringing forests, which are critically linked to both climate and water security, into the CDP system will enable companies and investors to rely on one source of primary data for this set of interrelated issues.”

Global Canopy executive director Andrew Mitchell said the merger would make it easier for companies to understand how they impact the world’s natural capital.

The announcement comes just ahead of the Rio+20 summit in Brazil, which is expected to see a series of announcements, including the Natural Capital Declaration, a potential agreement on sustainable stock exchanges and the launch of the Principles for Sustainable Insurance.

A transition process has already begun and the CDP will begin managing FFD’s operations from February 2013 – leading to full integration a year later.

The FFD is run by a secretariat including Director James Hulse, Project Manager Katie McCoy, Technical Advisor Liz Crosby and Researcher Frances Davis.
Investor engagement is headed up by Christoph Harwood, the principal of environmental investment advisor Marksman Consulting. A CDP spokesperson said the FFD operations team would transfer to the CDP in February 2013, while the research team will stay at the Global Canopy Programme and supply research to the CDP.

The FFD is overseen by a steering committee comprising the CDP, index firm FTSE, the Global Canopy Programme, Hermes Equity Ownership Services, Prince Charles’ Rainforests Project, Strategic Environmental Consulting, the UK government’s Department for International Development, the UNEP Finance Initiative and WWF UK. It is also advised by the UN-backed Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI). Funding for the FFD Project comes from the UK government and various charitable foundations.