Man looking off into the distance on a black background

Progress against our anti-racism commitments

WPP’s ongoing action and progress towards our long-term commitments to help combat racial injustice

On 17 June 2020, WPP announced a series of commitments to advance racial equity and invest in Black talent.

Below is a summary of the progress we have made against these commitments and the investment we continue to make.

COMMITMENT #1: We will take decisive action on each of the 12 points in 600 & Rising’s “Call for Change” open letter to the industry from more than 1,200 Black advertising professionals; complete a fundamental review of our hiring, retention, promotion and development practices; and publish our racial diversity data.

1. Make a specific, measurable, and public commitment to improve Black representation at all levels of agency staffing, especially senior and leadership positions.

WPP acknowledged that we need to improve Black representation at all levels of the company, especially at senior and leadership levels. We launched our diverse candidate slate policy and have undertaken a review of our hiring practices and policies to ensure diversity, equity and inclusion are systematically embedded throughout (details below in points 5, 6 and 8). In 2022, we appointed a new Global Chief Talent and Inclusion Officer, highlighting our commitment to sustained momentum.

Our network of DE&I leads, along with our other champions of DE&I across our agencies, also continue to help us drive and accelerate the change we need to see.

2. Track and publicly report workforce diversity data on an annual basis to create accountability for the agency and the industry.

For the third consecutive year, we have published our workforce diversity data for the US and UK in our Sustainability Report.

It is not a legal requirement to publish this data, but we are doing so in the interest of transparency and to drive accountability, and we will continue to do so on an annual basis.

The story our data tells is clear: we have made progress but we still have a great deal of work to do. To deliver on our commitments, and remain focused on actions that make an impact, we have embedded DE&I goals and best practices into everything we do. The leaders of WPP’s global agency networks have each signed up to these actions and are committed to delivering progress against them within their businesses.

We launched Count Me In in 2023, a demographic survey to help us better understand our people and how they identify, and to understand the representation challenges we face to inform new programmes, policies and initiatives that will help create a culture within which everyone can thrive.

We will continue to focus on the hiring, retention, and promotion of people from historically excluded groups at all levels across WPP.

3. Audit agency policies and culture to ensure the environment we work in is more equitable and inclusive to a diversity of backgrounds and perspectives.

In 2021, we launched our first annual global company-wide survey. In 2022, we received more than 72,700 responses across more than 100 countries. This showed what our people want most from WPP: fulfilling careers, where they grow and discover new ways of working and learning, the opportunity to contribute to inspiring work that creates impact for their clients and a sense of belonging at a company they are proud to be part of.

These surveys will continue to provide people with the chance to give honest, unfiltered feedback on everything about their experience as an employee within the WPP network.

4. Provide extensive bias training to HR employees and all levels of management.

WPP has a mandatory online training programme which all our people are required to complete on an annual basis. The programme comprises five modules: How We Behave, Business Integrity, Safer Data, Sustainability and Belonging.

In addition, WPP’s Business Integrity team organises in-person and video call training sessions, townhalls and workshops throughout the year on topics such as racial equity to educate and inspire positive action.

Our Inclusion as a Skill learning experience is designed to equip every people manager across the organisation with the behaviours and practices needed to build an inclusive culture. After a similar pilot programme in 2021 with 1,000 participants, we are iterating the curriculum and expanding the programme, making it available across WPP globally in 2023. 

5. Extend agency outreach to a more diverse representation of colleges, universities and art schools.

We have expanded our talent recruiting platforms to cover over 300 sites, including HBCU alumni networks and other diverse groups.

We also partnered with Handshake, a posting platform that allows sharing events and open roles with colleagues across the U.S. Handshake allows WPP to quickly connect with HBCUs, HSI, and will grow to include more tribal colleges in the future as we expand our outreach to native communities.

To embed DE&I into our hiring processes, we launched our diverse candidate slate policy in the US, UK and APAC. Our recruiters are actively seeking to present diverse candidates to their Hiring Managers by ensuring that roles are marketed and accessible to candidates from diverse backgrounds; historically excluded groups are targeted, for example, through marketing to professional networks for those groups; and job descriptions are created in an inclusive way that doesn’t exclude or deter certain groups from applying. We are already seeing improvements in our senior executive diverse hiring as a result of this policy.

6. Expand residencies and internship programmes to candidates with transferable skills who may not have taken a traditional educational path toward advertising.

In 2022 our third series of NextGen Leaders, a virtual learning experience for those starting out or new to the industry, welcomed 2,633 participants across 71 countries (up from 800 participants in 54 countries at launch) - 68% diversity in race/ethnicity across the US and UK.

We have expanded relationships with organisations such as The LAGRANT Foundation and The One Club for Creativity, both of which focus on supporting young Black talent in our industry. With support from WPP's Racial Equity Programme, WPP and The One Club for Creativity launched ONE School UK. This 16-week online portfolio programme is designed to unlock potential and open doors for Black creatives into our industry.

Black creatives from all walks of life are invited to apply to the programme, which is set to launch in March 2023. To date in the US, ONE School has brought over 100 new creatives into the advertising industry.

In the UK, we partnered with Brixton Finishing School to launch the UNinvisibility Project, which aims to offer opportunities for a future-proofed, digital career to mid-life women and women of colour who are traditionally under-represented in this field.

7. Create, fund, and support employee resource groups (ERGs) for Black employees.

We have historically had a vibrant global ERG community, including dozens of active ERGs across our companies. WPP Roots is a professional network run by individuals who are passionate about championing greater ethnic and cultural diversity within the advertising industry, our agencies and our work.

In 2021, we created an ERG “best practices” handbook to empower our network leaders, support ERG formation, and inspire cross-agency collaboration.

In 2022, we launched a global ERG directory to connect our 200+ ERGs across the globe. In tandem with the directory, we established our ERG Best Practices (ERGBP) community, a space for the WPP network’s global ERG leaders, executive sponsors, and DE&I professionals to build community, exchange best practices, and activate around shared ERG objectives.

This year, we created company-wide employee community groups and a fund that will provide support for employee communities, including WPP Roots and agency-led ERGS for Black employees.

8. Invest in management and leadership training, as well as mentorship, sponsorship, and other career development programmes for Black employees.

We continue to expand development opportunities for employees of colour. One example is Elevate, a United States sponsorship programme designed to provide tools to support high-potential Black women in their career growth, personal development, and wellbeing. We launched this in the UK with 25 high-potential Black women graduating in the summer of 2022 and we are piloting the next iteration, SUMMIT, a year-long sponsorship programme for people of colour, starting with Brazil and South Africa in 2023, and then expanding to the rest of the network in 2024.

9. Require all leadership to be active participants in company diversity and inclusion initiatives and tie success in those initiatives to bonus compensation.

From 2021, we have included diversity, equity and inclusion goals in our incentive plans for senior executives. Targets relate to improvements with respect to increased diverse representation at the senior management level and delivery of our people strategy inclusive of initiatives and programmes aimed to attract, develop, retain, and advance talent.

10. Create a diversity and inclusion committee, made up of Black and NBPOC employees, to inform the development of our policies.

Our Global Inclusion Council was established in 2021 to advise WPP’s CEO and Executive Committee on appropriate DE&I goals, recommend new systems and strategies, and identify barriers to progress, continues to convene.

11. Establish a diversity review panel to stem the spread of stereotypes in creative work and ensure offensive or culturally insensitive work is never published.

We established our Diversity Review Panel in January 2021 for our people to raise any concerns regarding negative stereotypes in our work so we can ensure an inclusive approach to creativity.

12. Introduce a wage equity plan to ensure that Black women, Black men and people of colour are being compensated fairly.

In 2022 we have focused on introducing salary bands for all which includes our ethnically diverse workforce which means greater transparency – these were rolled out across the US.

COMMITMENT #2: We will use our voice to fight racism and advance the cause of racial equity in and beyond our industry.

Our global platform and voice can be used to spark change far beyond our company through our work for clients and communities.

We have established a Diversity Review Subcommittee whose mandate is to prevent negative and harmful stereotypes in creative work and to help us avoid publishing offensive or culturally insensitive work. The subcommittee is chaired by Lindsay Pattison, our Chief Client Officer, consisting of members across EMEA, LATAM, North America and APAC, all of whom are also members of the Global Inclusion Council. In July 2020, we issued WPP’s Commitment to Inclusiveness, Diversity and Anti-Racism in our Work, which includes our commitment to ensure that we do not perpetuate harmful, negative stereotypes in the content we create.

In collaboration with UniWorld, we created the Inclusive Marketing Playbook in December 2020 to enable WPP teams to put inclusive marketing principles and best practice front and centre when it comes to communications, marketing and new business projects. These actions – combined with the creativity of all our people – help us leverage our scale and influence to advance racial justice.

Advancing racial equity through our work

Below are a few of the highlights – see here for more examples.

  • WPP’s Mindshare worked with Dove Men+Care on the Commit to C.A.R.E. (Care About Racial Equity) campaign, amplifying the voices of some of the most recognisable Black athletes today. Partnering with 11 NBA stars, the content series explored how racial injustice impacts them, affects their families, and fuels their passion for activism – changing perceptions of Black men.
  • WPP agencies supported the launch of the Black Equity Organisation with pro bono work, from the branding a visual identity of the organisation to the campaign’s launch video.
  • WPP’s Grey and Cartwright created P&G’s The Choice.
  • WPP supported the launch of the Stephen Lawrence Day Foundation with more than £1.3m in donated media via GroupM and our media partners.
  • P&G’s Widen the Screen, created by Grey, aims to support Black creators and show the full picture of Black life.
  • Girl Up wanted to capture the historic event of Kamala Harris’s inauguration, as seen through the eyes of young girls across America so Ogilvy teamed up to create Today, We Rise, a film edited in record time and launched online just five hours after the ceremony.
  • Wunderman Thompson Brazil worked with Avon to launch This Is My Color, a campaign to introduce a new cosmetic colour palette inclusive of the widest possible range of Black skin tones in Brazil.
  • In partnership with Allyship & Action, Ogilvy donated talent, time, and media to help raise awareness about the issue of maternal mortality in the black community.

COMMITMENT #3: We will invest $30 million over three years to fund inclusion programmes within WPP and to support external organisations. The pledge is across three pillars.

Pillar 1 supports equity and inclusion initiatives within WPP. Improving retention, growth and promotion strategies for our talent of colour is a core focus. Our first WPP-wide investment in this area is focused on broadening access to a more diverse talent pipeline through formal partnerships with the following organisations in the US and the UK:

  • The One Club for Creativity
  • The LAGRANT Foundation
  • Brixton Finishing School
  • Rare Recruitment
  • Hue
  • Jopwell

We continue to expand development opportunities for employees of colour. One example is Elevate, a United States sponsorship programme designed to provide tools to support high-potential Black women in their career growth, personal development, and wellbeing. We launched this in the UK with 25 high-potential Black women graduating last summer and we are now piloting the next iteration, SUMMIT, a year-long sponsorship programme for people of colour, starting with Brazil and South Africa this year, and then expanding to the rest of the network in 2024. Our third series of NextGen Leaders, a virtual learning experience for those starting out or new to the industry, welcomed 2,633 participants across 71 countries (up from 800 participants in 54 countries at launch). In the US and UK, 68% of participants identified as Black, Asian or LatinX.

Pillar 2 utilises the power of our influence through the creative use of media value and pro bono work. Also included is an employee donation match programme up to $1,000 per person per year, to a total of $1 million. WPP will match personal donations by employees to non-profit organisations in support of our commitment to fighting racism, developing talent from under-represented groups and addressing issues that affect Black communities. WPP employees can visit insideWPP for further information.

Pillar 3 focuses on initiatives, partially funded through the corporate centre, that will create meaningful and lasting change to advance racial equity in our industry, as well as in wider parts of society. From a partnership with the One Club for Creativity to help the next generation of Black creatives in the UK build a top career in advertising to a platform focused on expanding professional knowledge of Black, Indigenous, and low-income students in Brazil, learn more about the 18 projects that have been supported so far.