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CDP restructure sees power shift away from Asia as regional roles axed

Of 52 global roles created by the climate disclosure non-profit, none are in Asia – despite it previously announcing a strategic pivot towards the most important region for greenhouse gas emissions cuts. The restructure comes as CDP separates from standards body SBTi.

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CDP's restructure has seen regional roles stripped out and replaced with functional positions. Image: Eco-Business

Environmental disclosure non-profit CDP is undergoing a global restructure that has seen numerous senior roles vacated in Asia Pacific.

The London-headquartered organisation helps companies and governments decarbonise by measuring their climate impact, and has significant influence in pushing the world’s largest firms to publicly share information about their carbon emissions. Last year, more than 23,000 firms representing US$67 trillion in market capitalisation disclosed their data to CDP.

Its restructure is designed to centralise operations that were previously divided between the United Kingdom, Europe and North America, and reorganise the non-profit around global functional roles, known as “market leader” positions. Boston Consulting Group (BCG) was brought in to advise on the restructure.

A key part of CDP’s transformation is its separation from the Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi), a standards body for validating net-zero targets in line with climate science that CDP co-founded in 2015. SBTi is now a separate entity, with some CDP staff moving over to SBTi in London.

Another factor in the restructure is the introduction of a new technology platform to improve the disclosure process, which has led to the departure of a number of chief technology officers, according to sources familiar with the review.

The restructure has seen regional roles stripped out and replaced with functional positions. However, of the 52 global functional roles created, none are based in Asia Pacific, Eco-Business understands.

The global functional roles report to interim chief transformation and delivery officer Peter Adam, who was hired less than a year ago from BCG.

The process is being overseen by Sherry Madera, formerly of credit card firm MasterCard and data company Refinitiv, who was appointed chief executive officer in October 2023, succeeding co-founder Paul Simpson and replacing interim CEO Jamie Neil.

The restructure has caused considerable upheaval for executives in Asia, with a number of senior staff moving on, despite founder chair Paul Dickinson having identified Asia as a key strategic region for CDP going forward. 

Asia has shown consistent high growth for climate disclosure and is arguably the world’s most important region for greenhouse gas emissions reduction. The Asia Pacific region saw a 62 per cent increase in disclosures with CDP in 2022. 

Donald Chan, Asia Pacific managing director, who was hired in 2021, Prarthana Borah, country director for India, John Leung, global communications and marketing director and Southeast Asia and Oceania director, and Jakarta-based Southeast Asia engagement manager Dedy Mahardika have moved on from the organisation.

Leung’s role running marketing and communications globally was partly replaced by Shannon Joly, who is based in Paris, as global strategic marketing advisor.

Only Flora Wu remains in her role running CDP’s China operation.

CDP’s Asia Pacific operation was hit by a recruitment freeze in early 2023, before the start of the financial year, although recruitment was ongoing in other territories, Eco-Business understands.

In an email to staff in November, Madera acknowledged that the organisation is undergoing considerable change, particularly in Asia Pacific, but said the region is “critically important” and a build-out plan for Asia had been prioritised.

According to one former executive, the restructure was a “bolt from the blue” that bulldozed the Asia business despite the region performing strongly. 

They said CDP’s recent appointment of diversity and inclusion and “mental health champions” at a time when numerous staff had lost their jobs was “ironic”. These roles were only created in the UK, Europe and North America.

In emails to the board of directors seen by Eco-Business, Asia-based executives have complained that while functional reporting may work in more mature markets like Europe and North America, regional structures led by country directors are crucial in emerging markets where government relations, a local presence and personal relationships are important.

In the emails, the new strategic direction was described as “problematic” for CDP’s development in Asia Pacific, and risked undoing progress made to grow the organisation in key Asian territories in recent years.

CDP established a presence in China and Hong Kong in 2015 and appointed regional directors in Singapore in 2021.

In response to queries from Eco-Business, a CDP spokesperson said that with the arrival of the organisation’s new CEO, it is working to ensure CDP’s role in the global ecosystem is “clear” so it can “confidently invest” in global markets.

“We will be building upon the relationships, momentum and infrastructure we already have in place in our offices around the world to achieve our mission,” it said. “The recruitment approach we have implemented is global in its application and ensures CDP can continue to run the world’s environmental disclosure system for companies, cities, states and regions at such a critical time.”

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