What we're doing

Building a low-carbon Group

Climate change is the main environmental issue for WPP. Our strategy is to reduce our carbon emissions by: 

Our target is to reduce our carbon emissions to 1.2 tonnes per person by 2020, a 63% reduction from our 2006 baseline. 

1.2 tonnes of CO2 target per person
by 2020

We believe a carbon intensity target is most appropriate for WPP, as Group headcount is closely linked to levels of business activity. Our business evolves continually through acquisitions and disposals. The intensity measure allows us to reflect this without needing to adjust our baseline.

In 2011, our carbon footprint per person was 2.44 tonnes, down 3% on 2010 and 26% lower than 2006. Despite this progress, we are unlikely to meet our interim target of 1.8 tonnes per person in 2012.

2.44 tonnes of CO2 generated per person in 2011 (2010: 2.51)

We are reviewing our strategy and will adjust our approach as necessary to work towards our 2015 and 2020 targets. 

Our absolute carbon footprint in 2011 was 277,058 tonnes of CO2 (rating renewable electricity as zero emissions), an increase of 6% over 2010 compared to a 9% growth in headcount. This increase is primarily due to growth in business air travel. Emissions from air travel increased by 15%, due to an upturn in business activity and despite our investment in videoconferencing. Although we used less energy in our offices (345,411 MWh in 2011 compared with 350,724 MWh in 2010) associated emissions rose by 1%. This is due to growth of our business in countries such as China and India where grid electricity is relatively more carbon-intensive. The reduction in energy use during 2011 represents an approximate cost saving of $500,000. 

277,058 tonnes of CO2 emitted in 2011 (2010: 261,004)

If the renewable electricity we purchase globally is rated using the same emissions factors as standard grid electricity, our total carbon footprint in 2011 was 300,745 tonnes of CO2.

We report our greenhouse gas emissions to the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP), a collaboration of institutional investors, and participate in the CDP’s Supply Chain Program. In the UK, WPP met its current obligations under the CRC Energy Efficiency Scheme.

In 2011, we focused on reducing our carbon footprint through the following activities:


We aim to empower our operating companies with better information and tools for managing their energy use and carbon emissions. We operate smart meters at 55 of our key locations, accounting for around 25% of our total floor space. These meters provide detailed monthly energy-use reports which allow our operating companies to spot inefficiencies and improve their performance. We also produce an individual carbon footprint for every company annually, which is distributed to the operating company CEO.


7% proportion of our total floor space certified to advanced green building standards

We are integrating energy efficiency and other environmental considerations into our property acquisition and capital expenditure processes so that, where possible, any property we lease, purchase, fit out or renovate meets advanced energy and environmental standards, such as Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) and Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method (BREEAM). We estimate that 7% of our total floor space is currently certified to such standards. We have our own scorecard which is used to assess the environmental performance of new offices over 25,000 square feet which have not been certified to standards such as LEED or BREEAM. The scorecard covers five criteria: energy and carbon; water; materials and waste; travel; and health and safety. We aim to make efficient use of office space and encourage flexible working where appropriate, enabling us to reduce overall space requirements and improving the energy and environmental performance of our workspace.

IT equipment:

We have requirements in place to improve the energy efficiency of our IT equipment. This means that only approved devices can be purchased, they must comply with our energy consumption standards, and power management features must be enabled. We aim to reduce the energy consumption of key IT applications by up to 40%. To achieve this, we are looking at new ways of sourcing our IT needs and implementing server, storage and network virtualisation solutions to reduce the number of devices in use. Currently 50% of our servers are virtualised. Our managed print program, which includes reducing the number of printers in use, is helping us to reduce energy used for printing by up to 30% in each location. It covers approximately 10% of employees, but we are aiming to increase this substantially by 2015. In early 2012, we conducted a global survey of our IT infrastructure and plan to use the data and information we collected to identify new energy and carbon reduction opportunities.


400 VC units supported by WPP’s videoconferencing program (2010: 250)

We encourage our people to meet via videoconferencing (VC) and have installed 75 shared high-definition VC units in over 50 cities around the world which can be used by any WPP company. These are linked to an additional 325 VC units exclusive to individual operating companies. See map. Videoconferences can be booked between any of the rooms and external VC locations via the Group intranet. We introduced a 24-hour, five-day-a-week helpdesk to support the increased number of employees using the system, and to help organise complex calls involving multiple systems, users and content types. We also launched a web portal which enables desktop and laptop users to access our videoconferencing network from wherever they are. In 2011, usage increased by 120%, with half of all calls involving external links to clients and suppliers. 

Renewable electricity:

16% estimated total electricity purchased from renewable sources (2010: 16%)

We purchase renewable electricity where we can and regularly review electricity sourcing across all markets to identify new opportunities. In 2011, we completed our goal of establishing preferred suppliers of renewable electricity contracts in all major markets, where this was appropriate. Around 16% of the total electricity we purchase is generated from renewable sources. See table for a country breakdown. Purchasing renewable electricity reduces our carbon footprint by 23,687 tonnes of CO2. Renewable electricity contracts are usually for a fixed period and may not be available at competitive prices in the future. However, it is our intention to increase the percentage of electricity purchased from renewable sources to 20% by 2015.

Carbon offsetting:

100% of our carbon emissions from air travel were offset in 2011

In 2011, we offset 98,482 tonnes of carbon, equivalent to our total emissions from air travel, by supporting renewable energy projects. We reviewed our offset policy in 2011 and appointed a new provider, see case study. From 2012 our operating companies will cover the cost of offset equivalent to their annual air travel emissions. This will further incentivise our companies to reduce air travel.

Resource use and waste

We aim to use natural resources efficiently, to promote the use of sustainable and renewable resources and to reduce the waste we send to landfill. In 2011, we focused our efforts on the following areas: 

Paper sourcing and use:

50% of paper used for copying and printing to come from recycled sources by 2015

Our target is to source 50% of the paper we use for copying and printing from recycled sources by 2015. In 2011, 35% of the paper purchased by WPP companies contained at least 50% post-consumer recycled fibre. We have completed our goal of establishing preferred paper suppliers in all major markets, where appropriate. All of these suppliers provide paper and paper products with recycled content. Our managed print program (see IT equipment), helps us to reduce paper use by 20-30% per location. In 2011, our total paper usage was 9,327 tonnes. 

Waste and recycling:

Our key waste streams are electronic waste and office consumables (e.g. paper, card, cans, plastic bottles and toner cartridges). We aim to reduce the amount of waste we send to landfill by encouraging local arrangements for computer and furniture re-use; and establishing recycling contracts for electronic waste and standard office consumables. In 2011, we completed our goal of establishing preferred suppliers of recycling services for waste paper and standard office consumables in all major markets, where appropriate. We were not able to complete the process of appointing a global IT vendor to manage our obsolete IT equipment, including laptops, desktops and servers in 2011 but aim to do so in 2012. Our goal is for obsolete IT equipment to be refurbished and sold for reuse or if this is not possible, to be broken down for recycling. Disposal is a last resort, and must be done in compliance with local environmental regulations and data security best practice (See Privacy, for information on our approach to privacy and data security). WPP companies use mobile technology extensively and handsets are frequently upgraded. In 2011, we completed our goal of establishing preferred suppliers of recycling services for mobile phones in all major markets, where appropriate. We have set up procurement contracts with furniture and carpet suppliers to ensure the products we purchase can be disposed of in a responsible manner. We have chosen carpet suppliers that focus on reducing the amount of carpet sent to landfill by recycling or refurbishing old carpet, and furniture suppliers that provide products containing high levels of recycled or recyclable content or timber sourced from certified sustainable forests. In 2011, we started working with workplace management company Go Green to increase the reuse and recycling of furniture among our UK companies. See waste recycling data.

Water use:

As an office-based company, WPP is not a major water user. However, we recognise the importance of water conservation, particularly in water-scarce areas. We estimate that 20% of our operations are located in such areas (See chart). Our water conservation strategy targets our 11 largest locations in areas of water scarcity to ensure that our investment produces the most environmental benefit. These locations account for 20% of our total floor space in water-scarce areas. Our target, at these locations, is to reduce water use per head by 20% by 2015. In 2011, water use per head was 13.4 cubic metres, down by 9% over 2010, our baseline year. Total water use was 76,026 cubic metres, up by 2% over 2010. We are on track to meet our 2012 interim target. At each location, facilities and purchasing managers have been charged with identifying and implementing water-saving measures, and raising awareness of water issues among employees. Our water conservation guidelines help our operating companies to reduce water use, for example by identifying and repairing leaks, upgrading fixtures and fittings during renovations as well as reusing rainwater and wastewater. 

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