Material issues, risks and opportunities

Our approach to sustainability is focused on the issues we’ve identified as most material (relevant and significant) to WPP. Our assessment is informed by feedback from stakeholders, particularly investors, clients and our people. See Stakeholder engagement. 

Within these areas we have identified specific risks and opportunities and categorised them according to significance. 

We respect human rights wherever we operate and are committed to upholding the principles contained in the UN Universal Declaration on Human Rights and the International Labour Organisation’s fundamental conventions on core labour standards. We support the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights which were developed by UN Special Representative John Ruggie and approved by the UN in 2011. We plan to assess our approach against the Principles.

Risk/opportunityMateriality ratingReasonOur response
Damage to WPP’s reputation from undertaking controversial client work. High Significant potential impact on the reputation of the Group and/or our companies. Upward referral process established and communicated via the WPP Policy Book and ethics training. WPP’s Ethics Committee discusses cases of concern and identifies new risk areas.

Marketing ethics, compliance with marketing standards, and transparency about our marketing practices. High Failure to comply with marketing standards could impact the Group’s reputation or its relationship with clients. Managed by our operating companies with referral to WPP Code of Conduct and WPP directors as necessary.

Compliance with privacy and data protection regulations and best practices. High Increasingly important issue as we pursue our business strategy to expand our digital and insight (research) businesses. Associated with contractual, financial, legal and reputational risks to the Group. The Group assists our operating companies in developing principles on privacy. Our key digital marketing and research companies have nominated senior executives to provide leadership on privacy and to work with other companies in the Group.

Employment, including diversity and equal opportunities, business ethics, employee development, remuneration, communication and health and safety. High
Policies on diversity, remuneration and training affect our ability to recruit and retain talented employees in key markets. Failing to meet standards on diversity and gender would impact the perception of the Group and quality of work.

 Human resources policies are set and implemented at operating company level. WPP’s chief talent officer assists the operating companies in attracting, developing and retaining our talent and to share best practice on issues such as recruitment, remuneration, engagement, diversity and training.

  Low Health and safety is relatively low risk for WPP as an office-based company.
The social and environmental impact of our work for clients. Medium Already an important opportunity for WPP companies and we anticipate its significance will increase as environmental regulation and consumer interest continue to grow.
 Opportunities to advise clients on marketing with a social or environmental dimension are identified by our companies.
Climate change, including the emissions from energy used in our offices and during business travel. Medium
Our climate strategy enables us to comply with regulation, reduce costs and achieve our ambition to be a centre of excellence for sustainability communication. Likely to become more significant over time. Potential negative reputation and cost impact if we fail to meet our climate target.

 Cross-functional, Group-wide Environmental Action Teams and a network of agency Climate Champions help implement our climate change strategy. Some companies have appointed environmental managers.

Other environmental impacts, including the resources we use (e.g. paper and water) and the waste we create. Low As an office-based company our resource use is relatively low. Group strategies in place to manage paper sourcing and use, waste management, and water use at key locations. Other impacts managed by our companies.

Social investment, including pro bono work, donations to charity and employee volunteering. Low–medium Pro bono work supports employee development and retention, and the Group’s reputation. Significant beneficial impact on charities we support. Pro bono projects are agreed directly between WPP companies and charities. Many of our companies have long-standing relationships with their pro bono partners. WPP, the parent company, helps to coordinate pro bono projects involving multiple WPP companies or cross-Group collaborations.

Supply chain, including supplier standards and sustainable sourcing. Low A relatively low risk to WPP as a service company. WPP’s Group procurement team use ethical and environmental criteria in the selection of preferred suppliers. Other suppliers are managed at operating company level.

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