For the first time South Africa's top 40 listed companies, which includes Telkom and MTN, have been asked to make available information on their greenhouse gas emissions and their responses to environment-related business trends by the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP), the secretariat for a grouping of more than 250 institutional investors from around the world with $41-trillion under management. The companies are expected to respond to the questionnaires by the end of this month.

Internationally, IT companies such as Siemens, IBM, Apple Computers, Ericsson, Motorola, Cisco Systems, Infosys Technologies, NTT Data, Unisys Corporation, Dell, Hewlett-Packard, Lexmark, NCR and Toshiba have responded in previous years. So too have the BT Group, France Telecom, Deutsche Telekom, Brasil Telecom and Qwest among many other of the world's telecommunications service suppliers. (To search the CPD questionnaire respondents by sector go here).

This year the questionnaire has been sent to 2,400 of the world's largest quoted companies by the London-based secretariat which was formed in 2000. Each year a report is compiled from the responses received. This year's CDP report, which will be its fifth (CDP5), is scheduled to be released in September. The first South African CDP report will be launched in October.

The questionnaires are designed to assess the potential risks and opportunities relating to climate change companies face. "We are seeking to improve our understanding of possible impacts [of climate change] on the value of our investments", the CPD states in a letter sent out with the questionnaire.

Jonathan Hanks of Incite Sustainability, the company that initiated the project in South Africa, said that there is a need to raise awareness on climate change issues in this country. "Climate change is a key business issue, which some companies fail to realise," he said.

Institutional shareholders in the US are increasingly seeking transparency from companies on their responses to environment-related business trends. Investors have Green my Apple campaign, for instance, which seems to have spurred the company into taking some positive steps.

As a Trustee of the New York State Common Retirement Fund is quoted as saying on the CDP's website : "The Carbon Disclosure Project ...[is]... a quiet, mature, expert way to raise the consciousness of CEOs who are under pressure to provide immediate profits for the next quarter's reporting...[it] is a way to give them the sense that looking at the long term is really the smart and sensible way to go."