Sustainability Report 2019


Many of our clients have already set ambitious sustainability targets, and WPP can help them achieve these goals. Our challenge is to show that sustainable living is not just possible, but desirable

Mark Read CBE

Chief Executive Officer

Chief Executive Officer's statement PDF 101KB

Our industry has a responsibility to use our powers for good – to influence norms and change behaviour. We can’t wait for others to act: it’s up to us to lead the way

Andrea Harris

Group Chief Counsel, WPP

WPP-Sustainability-Report-Andrea Harris-1000x1000

2019 summary

At WPP we advise clients on sustainability issues and we take action in our business to improve our own performance.

Find out how we work with clients on sustainability, how we support progress on the UN Sustainable Development Goals through our client and pro bono work, how we treat our people, how we're cutting our carbon footprint and how we partner with suppliers.


The work we do for our clients reaches billions of people each year, presenting our greatest opportunity to create positive change.

Our clients must balance a complex set of social and environmental challenges with changing consumer expectations, and constant technological developments. While challenging, today’s landscape also offers major opportunities to create new markets for more inclusive and sustainable products and services.

Marketing is powerful – it can change attitudes and behaviour. It is critical that we apply high ethical standards to our work to ensure those changes are for the better. We work hard to maintain high standards and strong compliance in areas such as ethics, human rights, privacy and data security.

Our focus areas

  • Supporting clients to create brands with purpose and integrate sustainability into strategy, communications and marketing.
  • Combining the latest technology alongside creativity and sustainability expertise to help clients inspire consumers and help shift behaviour to more sustainable norms. 
  • Meeting high ethical standards in our client work.

How are we doing?

  • 1 in 5 of our top 50 clients have made commitments to carbon neutrality
  • 4 in 5 of our top 50 client leads have discussed sustainability with their clients

Sustainability at the heart of our offer for clients PDF 911KB

Social investment

Charities and NGOs do vital work, often with limited resources. We can help boost their impact by providing communications and creative services on a pro bono basis (for little or no fee).

This work is mutually rewarding. While enabling our voluntary sector clients to raise money and awareness, recruit members, and achieve campaign objectives, pro bono work also provides opportunities for our people to work on fulfilling and often award-winning campaigns that raise the profile of our companies.

Our pro bono work and social investment can also support progress toward the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

Our focus areas

  • Providing pro bono creative services to organisations working on health (including the fight against Covid-19), education, human rights, arts and the environment.
  • Negotiating free media space for charity campaigns, enabling them to reach a wide audience.
  • Encouraging our people to volunteer their time and skills.

How are we doing?

  • £10.6m in pro bono work (2018: £11.3m)
  • £5.2m in charitable donations (2018: £5.7m)
  • 1.6% social investment as a percentage of reported profit before tax (2018: 1.4%)
  • £18.9m worth of free media space negotiated by WPP companies (2018: £23.8m)
  • £291m wider social benefits of pro bono work, charitable donations and free media space (2018: £331m)

Social investment PDF 1.3MB


The insights, creativity, and expertise of our people are what bring our clients to our door. Our success depends on hiring and retaining the brightest, most forward-thinking people.

We directly employ more than 106,000 people in 112 countries. There is fierce competition for talented people in our industry so we need to offer a great employee experience with attractive remuneration and benefits, along with opportunities to learn, develop and grow.

Different backgrounds and perspectives are what drive creativity. A diverse and inclusive workplace is essential to our daily work and our long-term success. We work hard to make all our people feel valued and fulfilled at work, regardless of gender, ethnicity, age, or disability. To underscore this commitment this year we joined both the 30% Club (campaigning for greater female representation in business leadership) and the Valuable500 (putting disability on the boardroom agenda).

Our focus areas

  • Embedding a culture based on our values of being open, optimistic and doing extraordinary work.
  • Improving inclusion and diversity.
  • Investing in skills and creating opportunities for our people to to collaborate, learn, develop and grow.
  • Offering attractive compensation and working practices.
  • Engaging with and listening to our people.
  • Supporting our people’s physical and mental health and wellbeing.

How are we doing?

  • 40% women at Board level (2018: 33%)
  • 37% women in executive leadership (2018: 36%)
  • 50% women in senior management (2018: 49%)
  • £38.7m training spend, 11 hours training per person (2018: £36.6m)
  • Industry Leader in the Bloomberg Gender-Equality Index

Attracting and retaining talent PDF 1.4MB


We support urgent action to tackle the climate crisis and aim for net zero carbon emissions in our Campuses by 2025. We’re cutting our own carbon footprint as well as working with many clients on campaigns aimed at promoting action on climate change.

We recognise that modern lifestyles have contributed significantly to the climate crisis and environmental degradation. We also know the threat these impacts pose to global social and economic development. Advertising has undoubtedly played a role in fuelling consumerism – but we are excited about the part it can now play in promoting low-impact and regenerative living.

By taking action on climate change we can reduce costs and risks to the business, and meet the expectations of our clients and colleagues.

Our focus areas

  • Achieving net zero carbon emissions in our Campuses by 2025.
  • Sourcing 100% of our electricity from renewable sources by 2025.
  • Reducing waste and improving resource efficiency.
  • Phasing out single-use plastics that cannot be reused, recycled or composted from our 3,000+ offices by the end of 2020.
  • Working with clients to stimulate action on climate change and the environment.
  • Supporting the Taskforce on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD) and assessing our exposure and resilience to climate risk.

How are we doing?

  • 0.60 tonnes CO2e emissions per person, a 21% reduction since 2018
  • 25% of floor space certified to advanced green building standards, meeting our 2020 target a year early (2018: 21%)
  • 35% of electricity from renewable sources (2018: 32%)
  • 100% of electricity in our United States offices from renewable sources for the first time

Environment PDF 975KB
TCFD Disclosure PDF 63KB
Carbon Emissions Data PDF 59KB 

Supply chain

We expect the companies we work with to meet high ethical, human rights, workplace and environmental standards. However, with over 130,000 companies in our supply chain, some risks remain. We endeavour to mitigate these risks.

We have established due diligence processes to help us select suppliers that meet our responsible sourcing standards, and we work with them to positively influence the wider supply chain. This reduces risks to our business and clients and enables us to respond to the growing number of client tender processes that include supply chain management criteria.

Respect for human rights is a fundamental principle for WPP. We aim to prevent, identify and address any negative impacts on human rights associated with our business activities.

Our focus areas

  • Setting clear standards and communicating these to our suppliers.
  • Conducting due diligence to identify risks in our supply chain.
  • Working with suppliers to reduce modern slavery risks in our supply chain.

How are we doing?

  • All suppliers must read and sign our Supplier Code of Conduct
  • Pre-selection questionnaire with integrated sustainability criteria rolled out across 12 key markets, with an intent to roll out to further markets during 2020
  • Reviewing and redeveloping our approach to supply chain management and responsible sourcing
  • 1.6% of procurement spend in the United States is with certified diverse suppliers (2018: 2.1%)

Supply chain PDF 464KB

Responsible business

We can reduce risks to our business and clients by establishing clear policies and procedures in areas such as data security, ethical conduct, supply chain management, and human rights, as well as by being transparent about our progress.

We set clear ethical standards for our people and companies through our policy framework and training. The WPP Code of Business Conduct summarises our principles and key policies that apply to everyone at WPP.

Dialogue with our stakeholders, including our people, clients and investors, provides valuable feedback and insight into sustainability risks and opportunities for our Company and our clients.

In 2019, we strengthened our governance of sustainability by establishing a Board-level Sustainability Committee to steer our approach.

Our focus areas

  • Embedding ethical standards including clear policies, compliance processes and mandatory ethics training.
  • Using our Data Health Checker to review privacy risks and data security practices in our businesses.

How are we doing?

  • 57,000+ people completed refreshed ethics training in 2019
  • New Disability Policy launched
  • Updated Data Privacy and Security Charter to include Artificial Intelligence Statement

Responsible business PDF 573KB
Sustainability Committee Report PDF 39KB


I believe we are truly setting the industry standard for inclusion and sustainable business in this country

Demet İkiler explains what inspired her to promote inclusive and sustainable business at WPP in Turkey

Read more PDF 144KB

We are investing in three key initiatives for building a brighter future for India and its young people

CVL Srinivas on what sustainable business means to WPP in India

Read more PDF 162KB


Our client work