Sustainability and our business

WPP companies help their clients succeed in an extremely competitive global market, by providing high-quality information, strategic advice and specialist communications skills. As sustainability issues increasingly impact our clients’ businesses, strategies and communications, they are becoming more important to WPP too.

As our clients adapt to social and environmental challenges they look to our companies for the best advice and insight. By developing our sustainability expertise and by improving our own social and environmental performance, we can forge stronger relationships with our clients and generate value for our business and society.

Our work to identify, manage and reduce our sustainability impacts while maximising our positive contribution is an important enabler to our strategy today and essential to preparing our business to succeed in the longer term.

As more clients look to integrate sustainability into their brand strategies, marketing and communications, they need service providers with the right expertise and who share their values

The business value of sustainability

WPP is becoming an increasingly horizontal Group, serving many of our largest clients through multi-agency teams, with a balanced global presence between mature and faster-developing markets, and with a greater share of our revenues coming from our data-led and digital businesses.

Our work to improve our sustainability performance and integrate consistently high ethical, social and environmental standards is an intrinsic part of our strategy as it addresses business risks and creates new opportunities:

  • Improving access to skills – WPP is a people business, and to best serve our clients we need a diverse workforce, with the most talented and creative people. We need to make sure we have the right people in all our markets, including faster-growing economies where our industry is less well-established, and in all our disciplines. Our work to implement leading employment practices, to create inspiring, inclusive workplaces and to develop skills both inside and outside our business, help us to do this.
  • Supporting access to new business – Managing and improving our sustainability performance enables us to meet changing client expectations and to open up new sources of revenue. A growing number of client tender processes include sustainability requirements as standard, as well as detailed requirements in areas like privacy. Demonstrating our credentials helps us to win this business. As more clients look to integrate sustainability into their brand strategies, marketing and communications, they need service providers with the right expertise and who share their values.
    This is creating new opportunities for our companies. Clients who engaged with us on sustainability were worth at least £1.35 billion to the Group in 2014, equivalent to 12% of revenues, a 7% increase on the previous year.
  • Efficiency, risk and reputation – Implementing consistent ethical standards and selecting suppliers who share our values, managing our environmental footprint and investing in communities helps to protect our reputation and that of our clients, while cutting costs and reducing legal, financial and operational risks.

To succeed in this new environment, brands will have to make fundamental changes to business models, supply chains, products and services and to the way they engage with customers and stakeholders

Preparing for the long term

By 2030, a predicted 4.9 billion-strong global middle class1 will drive demand for consumer goods and services. But to meet the needs of this huge market, brands will have to overcome significant social and environmental challenges. The impact of climate change, ecosystem decline and water scarcity will limit supplies of natural resources, increase material and manufacturing costs, and disrupt supply chains.

As the world’s population reaches 9 billion2, there will be unprecedented strains on food resources, infrastructure and public services. Access to employment and the need for equality of opportunity will continue to be major concerns. Society will look to business to play a major role in addressing these challenges, while technology will continue to transform the way consumers and citizens engage with brands, and keep the spotlight on business practices and values.

To succeed in this new environment, brands will have to make fundamental changes to business models, supply chains, products and services and to the way they engage with customers and stakeholders. They will look to our businesses for the strategic insight, research and communications services they need to make this change happen.

Today’s leading businesses have already started on this journey and our companies are working with many of these pioneers. As these longer-term trends become more important for our clients, their significance will grow for WPP too. Increasingly, we will need to demonstrate to our clients that we have the insights and knowledge they need to succeed in this new era for business, and that within our own businesses we also apply high standards and values to the way we operate. The work our companies are doing today will lay the groundwork for success in the business environment of the future.

1 The Emerging Middle Class in Developing Countries, Homi Kharas, The Brookings Institution,

2 World Population Prospects: the 2012 Revision, UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs,

Our work on sustainability is integral to our business strategy:

Our business strategy

Our goal remains to be the world’s most admired and respected communications services advisor to global, multinational, regional and local companies. To that end we have four strategic priorities:

Increase the share of revenues from faster-developing markets to 40-45%

Increase the share of revenues from new media to 40-45%

Maintain the share of more measurable marketing services at 50% of revenues

Advance ‘horizontality’ by ensuring our people work together for the benefit of clients

Why sustainability matters

Access to skills

Leading employment practices, an inclusive workplace and our reputation for sustainability help us to recruit and retain the best people.

Investing in skills and education, especially in our growth markets, widens our talent pool and helps us to grow.

Access to new business

Leading privacy and data security standards enable us to meet client expectations and to grow our digital and data investment management businesses.

A significant number of client tender processes include sustainability requirements that we must meet to access this business.

More global clients are prioritising sustainable business practices. This is a growing source of revenue for our businesses able to provide insight on social and environmental issues and longer-term business risks and opportunities.

Efficiency, risk management and reputation

To protect our reputation and reduce legal and financial risks we must apply consistent ethical standards in all our businesses and new acquisitions and increasingly monitor standards in our supply chain.

Our commitment to sustainability supports our reputation and enables us to respond to growing investor interest. The responsible investment market is worth at least $13.6 trillion.

Improving our sustainability performance improves efficiency, reducing operating costs and enabling us to focus more on what matters most.