From our CEO

I don’t know any CEOs today who see sustainability as anything other than a central, strategic issue. They know integrating sustainability into their business is not in opposition to their commercial interests, but in tune with them and often an opportunity to stimulate innovation and improve market position.

Sir Martin Sorrell

This is clearly evident in our own client base. Clients who engaged with WPP on sustainability were worth at least £1.29 billion to the Group in 2015, equivalent to 11% of revenues.

But while governments and businesses alike recognize the need for action, we don’t yet have all the solutions to the world’s great challenges. Despite huge advances 795 million people still do not have enough food, 124 million children and young adolescents aren’t in school, 12.6 million deaths each year are attributable to environmental factors such as pollution and obesity has the potential to create a global health crisis. How can we address these issues in a world where our natural resources and environment are under threat from pollution, climate change, unsustainable consumption and degraded ecosystems?

Innovation on a vast scale is needed. Neither governments nor any one business can possibly unlock the solutions by working alone. Collaboration is essential and we must all be willing to share ideas, to learn from each other’s successes and failures and to work together to galvanise investment and create change. That’s why it was exciting during 2015 to be personally involved in a number of opportunities for dialogue and to show WPP’s support for collaboration.

During September 2015, for example, along with the heads of more than 20 of the world’s leading businesses (including Alibaba, Facebook, Dow Chemical and Virgin Group), we were a signatory to an open letter in the Financial Times supporting the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the ambition to end poverty, to protect the planet, and ensure prosperity for all. It is in everyone’s interests that the goals are a success. But governments alone do not have the resources to tackle the huge problems the SDGs seek to address. There are only so many levers they can pull. Our letter called on political leaders to work actively and constructively with the private sector to help deliver the goals. Through collaboration with business, policy-makers will find that many more levers become available to them, and a great deal more can be achieved. Our own Pro bono book shows some of the ways WPP companies are supporting NGOs and charities working in these areas.

The marketing services sector has something of a unique role to play in sustainability. We are not large consumers of resources ourselves, but by working with our clients in both the public and private sectors we can help create the right conditions for sustainable change by building awareness, stimulating debate and engaging citizens and consumers on these issues.

During the Cannes International Festival of Creativity, I was fortunate to share a platform with Al Gore, founder and chairman of The Climate Reality Project, discussing his work on climate change and the role of communications in political and environmental campaigning. This will continue to be a priority for us. And of course, the COP21 climate summit in Paris was a timely reminder for us all on the need for rapid and large-scale change to avert climate disaster.

To find new solutions we need to think differently and at WPP we have long recognised that diversity is a source of creativity and new ideas. We know that diverse teams, which bring together people of all backgrounds and perspectives are more likely to generate innovative and original ideas. So I was pleased to have the opportunity to interview Lord Browne, former CEO of BP, on his new book, The Glass Closet, at an event hosted by Ogilvy Pride, Ogilvy & Mather’s LGBT network. We can all learn from John Browne’s reflections on the importance of bringing your authentic self to work and the need for businesses to value diversity; this continues to be a focus for our agencies.

Gender balance is an important issue for WPP and the business imperative for improving our record is crystal clear: companies with greater gender balance in their leadership teams outperform their peers. In addition to work within our agencies, at a Group level we have X Factor, a mentoring and development program for senior women run by Charlotte Beers, the former CEO of Ogilvy & Mather and chairman of J. Walter Thompson, and Women In Leadership Lessons, again led by Charlotte, for those in mid-level management roles. In the UK, WPP Stella is a network that supports efforts to achieve gender balance and encourages the sharing of best practice between our companies. We aim to roll it out in other markets soon. There are also many external-facing initiatives, such as J. Walter Thompson’s Female Tribes, a new proprietary study about women and the value of female capital, see page 26. We will renew our efforts in this critical area over the coming year, particularly given recent events.

2015 has been a year of progress on many sustainability issues within WPP. Highlights include: cutting our per head carbon footprint by 39% since 2006; our investment in skills and education through innovative partnerships with universities, internships and £41.1 million invested in training for our employees; our social contribution worth £43.8 million including the value of pro bono work, charitable donations and negotiated free media space; and our ongoing focus on improving standards in areas such as privacy and supply chain management. We submit our carbon footprint and employment data to Bureau Veritas for external assurance. And of course we continue to work with our clients on these issues helping them to use communications, marketing strategy and consumer insight to reshape their businesses to be sustainable for the long term.

Respect for human rights is a fundamental principle for us and we took the opportunity this year to make our commitment clear by publishing a human rights policy statement and joining the United Nations Global Compact. We are committed to sharing our progress each year against the Compact’s 10 principles (see page 101) and to working with the UN, our clients and other members of the Compact to share experiences and to make progress.

Sir Martin Sorrell
Group chief executive
sirmartinsorrell@wpp.com

2015 Highlights

39%
reduction in carbon emissions per employee since 2006

5,378 
paid internships and apprenticeships

200,000
employees completed our Ethics and Anti-Bribery and Corruption training