Corporate Carbon Performance Indicators

Carbon Intensity, Dependency, Exposure, and Risk


Address correspondence to:
Prof. Dr. Volker H. Hoffmann
ETH Zurich
Department for Management, Technology and Economics
Kreuzplatz 5
8032 Zurich, Switzerland


The dependency on carbon-based materials and energy sources and the emission of greenhouse gases have been recognized as major problems of the 21st century. Companies are central to the effort to grapple with these issues due to the large material flows they process and their capabilities for technological innovation. It is important, on the one hand, to determine the individual stake companies have in these issues and, on the other, to measure companies' performance. Since the results of studies thus far have been ambiguous, we define four comprehensive and systematic corporate carbon performance indicators: (1) Carbon intensity is physically oriented and represents a company's carbon use in relation to a business metric. (2) Carbon dependency illustrates the change in physical carbon performance within a given time period. (3) Carbon exposure reveals the financial implications of using and emitting carbon. (4) Carbon risk estimates the change in financial implications of carbon usage within a given time period. On the basis of these general definitions, we specify the indicators for a standardized application that can support two important stakeholders in their decision making: policy makers, who can include such information when evaluating current climate policies and formulating future ones, and investors and financial institutions, which can compare companies with respect to their carbon performance and corresponding financial effects.