More than 1,500 of the world's largest companies have been asked to provide information about their greenhouse gas emissions and environmental strategies.
Investors want clear information about environmental costs
Some of the world's leading investors are backing the initiative, designed to encourage debate about the risks to business from climate change.
Firms such as Exxon Mobil, BP, Ford and Google have been asked to comment on environmental targets and attitudes.
The world's top companies are under pressure to limit their own emissions.
BP and General Electric are among a number of companies to have announced major investment in renewable energy and fuel-efficient technology in recent months.
The environmental survey, organised by the Carbon Disclosure Project, is the fourth of its kind since 2002 and the largest to date.
It is being supported by more than 200 leading institutional investors, which hold more than $30 trillion (£17 trillion) of investments between them.
Companies are being asked to provide specific details of their annual carbon dioxide emissions, what their strategies are for reducing emissions and what technology is available to help them.
The survey also covers corporate attitudes towards environmental regulation and whether companies believe climate change is a risk or an opportunity to their business.
Companies are under no obligation to respond and can choose not to have their replies published.
But in 2005, 350 firms of out 500 canvassed - including Exxon Mobil, BP, Nike and Nippon Steel - responded.
Paul Dickinson, the Project's co-ordinator, said multinational firms were being affected by a range of environmental issues such as changing climatic trends, technological advances and changing consumer attitudes.
The survey helped investors determine whether companies would be "winners or losers" as a result of climate change.
Companies will be asked about renewable technology (Credit: Eyewire)
"It is a question of institutional investors taking a well-informed view of the profitability of companies based on energy consumption and emission performance," said Mr Dickinson.
"We provide an enormous fishbowl in which everyone can see what everybody else is doing."
Companies in emerging economies, where there are fewer environmental restrictions, are currently less likely to disclose information than European firms, which are subject to tight environmental regulations.
But Mr Dickinson said investors would be encouraging firms in China and Russia to be more open about the issue as they wanted to have a truly global picture of environmental challenges.
The Carbon Disclosure Project is funded by a consortium whose members include state pension funds, charitable foundations and environmental awareness groups.