Our most significant greenhouse gas emissions come from energy use in our offices and business air travel. Our strategy to reduce our footprint focuses on:

  • Office energy use – Improving the energy efficiency of our buildings and IT systems.
  • Air travel – Reducing non-essential flights by promoting videoconferencing and collaboration tools and offsetting carbon emissions, equivalent to those from our business air travel, by supporting renewable energy generation in fast-growing economies
  • Renewable energy – Purchasing green-tariff electricity for our offices where available.

tonnes of CO2e per person, our revised 2020 reduction target

Our revised carbon target

Since setting our carbon reduction target in 2006, we have reduced our per head emissions by 31% towards our very ambitious goal of 1.2 tonnes of CO2e per person by 2020 (a 65% decrease). Despite this progress – achieving reductions at the rate required to meet our 2020 target has proved more challenging than expected.

In 2013, we reviewed our carbon strategy and revised our 2020 carbon reduction target to 1.8 tonnes of CO2e per person, a 47% reduction from 2006. In support of our longer-term goal, we have set a 4% annual reduction target for emissions from our buildings and air travel, each year up to 2020.

The revised target is in line with others in our industry and with professional services firms in other sectors. We believe it sets the right balance between being challenging, but achievable and, in combination with the annual targets, will make it easier to communicate with and direct our businesses successfully to make carbon reductions. We remain committed to becoming a low carbon Group and to further reducing our emissions beyond 2020.

Carbon strategy 2012-2020

Carbon Strategy 2012 - 2020
Tonnes per employee %
2012 carbon intensity 2.45
Building energy efficiencyInvesting in technology at new and existing buildings -0.14 -6%
Office space consolidationReducing space requirements in key cities -0.14 -6%
IT consolidationMoving servers to best-in-class data centres -0.15 -6%
Green-tariff electricityIncreasing supply from 16% to 25% of total electricity use -0.17 -7%
Other reductionsFrom additional carbon reduction measures, to be identified -0.14 -6%
2020 carbon intensity target 1.80 -26%

Note to chart: We will achieve our new carbon target through a focus on office energy use and green-tariff electricity.

Performance in 2013

In 2013, our carbon footprint per person was 2.35 tonnes, down 4% on 2012 and 31% lower than 2006.

tonnes of CO2e emitted
per person in 2013
(2012: 2.45)

We use a per person carbon intensity target as headcount is closely linked to levels of business activity and allows us to reflect the impact of acquisitions and disposals without needing to adjust our baseline. We also measure carbon intensity against revenue, which also shows a decrease on last year.

tonnes of CO2e emitted in 2013
(2012: 283,343)

Our absolute carbon footprint in 2013 was 279,859 tonnes of CO2e (rating renewable electricity as zero emissions), a decrease of 1% over 2012 despite a 3% growth in headcount. If the renewable electricity we purchase globally is rated using the same emissions factors as standard grid electricity, our total carbon footprint in 2013 was 301,204 tonnes of CO2e.

Carbon footprint in 2013 %

Carbon footprint in 2013
  • Stationary fuel combustion 4
  • Purchased electricity 49
  • Business air travel 34
  • Other estimated impacts 13

Carbon intensity 2006-2013 tonnes of CO2e

Carbon intensity 2006-2013
  • Headcount intensity
  • Target headcount intensity
  • Revenue intensity

Decoupling emissions from business growth Index (2006 = 100)

Decoupling emissions from business growth
  • Revenue
  • Headcount
  • Emissions

Note to chart: Since 2006, our absolute carbon footprint has increased by 4%, compared to a growth in reported headcount of 50% and revenue growth of 87%.

of global floor space certified to advanced green building standards such as BREEAM and LEED
(2012: 8%)

Office energy use

We aim to improve energy efficiency in existing buildings, to select new buildings that meet high environmental standards and to consolidate our real estate portfolio and IT infrastructure to reduce energy demand. These measures could help to reduce our carbon intensity by 18% from 2012 levels by 2020 (Carbon strategy chart).

Building energy use

Energy efficiency is part of our property acquisition and capital expenditure process and, where possible, any property we lease, purchase, fit out or renovate should meet 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 10% of our total floor space is now certified (2.4 million square feet), compared with 8% in 2012.

We have our own scorecard that 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.

In 2013, we commissioned independent energy surveys at 15 of our largest locations where we have long-term leases. These identified a number of cost-effective and scalable energy-saving measures, which can reduce emissions by up to 20% at each location. These include energy metering, building controls health-checks (that assess the efficiency of air conditioning and heating systems, for example) and daylight sensors to reduce use of lighting. During 2014, and 2015 we will test this approach at a number of key locations in London, and if the results are successful we will extend these measures to our largest locations by 2020.

Detailed energy-use data can help us improve efficiency and reduce energy use. When acquiring or retrofitting buildings, access to energy data is one of the factors considered. We aim to integrate this into lease agreements with landlords and/or to install sub-metering. We already operate metering at some key locations.

We aim to use office space more efficiently and to encourage flexible working where possible. This enables us to minimise the amount of space we need overall, and to reduce costs and carbon emissions. Office space consolidation could help to reduce our per person carbon emissions by 6% from 2012 levels by 2020.

IT energy use

In 2013, we conducted a strategic review of our IT infrastructure and established a new approach to managing IT systems across the Group. Implementation starts in 2014 and includes environmental targets to ensure we realise the potential carbon reduction opportunities from improving IT efficiency. The new approach will also help us to reduce energy use and consumables such as paper and cartridges and electronic waste.

As part of our new strategy we will move our server and storage infrastructure into best-in-class external data centre services by the end of 2015. We are also expanding our managed print program, with a goal to cut energy and consumables used by 30%. We aim to have one-third of our printers in the UK, US and Germany in the program by the end of 2014.

Renewable energy

We purchase green-tariff electricity where we can and regularly review electricity sourcing across all markets to identify new opportunities. This helps to reduce our footprint and stimulate green energy generation.

electricity purchased from
renewable sources
(2012: 16%)

We have established preferred suppliers of renewable electricity contracts in all major markets, where this was appropriate. Around 15% of our total electricity is purchased via green-tariff contracts. Purchasing this renewable electricity reduces our carbon footprint by 21,299 tonnes of CO2e. We aim to increase our use of green-tariff electricity to 25% by 2020.

Total green-tariff electricity purchased % breakdown by country, 2013

Total green-tariff electricity purchased
  • UK 49
  • USA 19
  • Germany 14
  • Italy 7
  • Other 11

WPP top buyers of green-tariff electricity as % of total electricity purchased in each country, 2013

WPP top buyers of green tariff electricity

Air travel

Air travel is essential to our business. There is a limit to how far we can reduce flights without impacting the services we provide to our clients. However, we aim to reduce non-essential flights by encouraging our teams to use videoconferencing where possible.

Business air travel Total miles travelled (millions)

Business air travel
  • Short haul
  • Medium haul
  • Long haul

Note to chart: There was an increase in air miles travelled in 2013. We began collecting data for short-, medium- and long-haul flights to help improve the accuracy of our carbon footprint data for air travel. Employees travelled an average of 4,519 miles per person in 2013, equivalent to one return flight from San Francisco to Toronto.


A laptop with a webcam

videoconferencing units
(2012: 597)

We continue to invest in our videoconferencing network, which now incorporates 672 units, including four telepresence rooms, in over 150 cities worldwide. During 2013, 75 new units were installed and usage increased by over 12% from 2012. The long-term aim is to integrate this service with other platforms enabling us to extend video services to all users within the Group. We have a 24-hour, five-day-a-week helpdesk to support the increased number of people and teams using these services.

Worldwide videoconferencing network (key cities)

Worldwide videoconferencing network (key cities)
  • VC units supported by WPP's videoconferencing program
  • Major air routes

Offsetting our air travel

We offset our unavoidable emissions from air travel via our offset provider, South Pole Carbon Asset Management. We invested €250,000 in 2013 to support four renewable energy-generation projects in China and other faster-growing economies. We select projects that support socio-economic development in local communities, alongside environmental benefits. Our current portfolio of projects is summarised below.

carbon credits bought, offsetting 100% of carbon emissions from air travel in 2013

Our companies cover the cost of offset equivalent to their annual air travel emissions, providing an incentive to reduce flights. Since 2007, we have purchased and permanently retired 1 million carbon credits.


In focus: Key offset projects


China, hydropower project

tonnes of CO2e offset


95 small run-of-river hydropower plants across 4 Chinese provinces

  • Verified Carbon Standard (VCS)
  • Social Carbon Standard

WPP's support for the project has directly enabled the:

  • generation of 198,337MWh of renewable energy for 38,471 people
  • creation of 158 jobs
  • agricultural training for 457 farmers
  • educational support for 30 children

India, solar power

tonnes of CO2e offset


25 MW solar photovoltaic plant in the Thar Desert in north-west India

  • Verified Carbon Standard (VCS)
  • renewable electricity for the regional grid
  • employment and vocational training, medical camps, vaccination campaigns and new bore wells for the local community

Taiwan, wind power

tonnes of CO2e offset


2 wind parks on the west coast of Taiwan

  • Gold Standard
  • renewable electricity to 130,000 households
  • jobs and scholarships for the local community

Turkey, geothermal power

tonnes of CO2e offset


Geothermal plant in the Çanakkale region in western Turkey

  • Gold Standard
  • jobs and improved skills among the local workforce
  • improved road infrastructure

Chapter 5 of 10