Social investment


social investment equivalent to 1.5% of reported profit before tax


free media space negotiated on behalf of pro bono clients


in wider social benefits created

Fast read

Why this is important

Charities, NGOs and voluntary groups do amazing work tackling challenging issues in areas such as health, education, human rights and the environment. They need the best communications services to help them raise awareness, generate funds and motivate support, but many have very limited resources to invest in such services. We can help to address this through our pro bono work, donations and by negotiating free media space for charity campaigns.

Sustainability impact

Through our social investment we can help charities, NGOs and voluntary groups to increase their impact in areas such as health, education, human rights and the environment. Our pro bono work is often worth more than the equivalent cash donation because it enables organisations to reach a wider audience, raise funds and achieve campaign objectives.

Business value

Our businesses benefit from pro bono work because it provides exciting creative opportunities for our people and supports their development. Many of our pro bono campaigns are recognised with leading industry awards, which contributes to the creative reputation of our companies.

Challenges and dilemmas

Measuring the impact of our pro bono work can be challenging but we are working to develop a methodology in this area.

Management approach

Each operating company has its own strategy for social investment, determining priorities at a local level.

What is the issue?

Our pro bono work is a source of inspiration to our people, providing them with opportunities to develop professionally and personally, and helps our pro bono clients to engage with their audiences through cost-effective, high-impact marketing. WPP employees also support their local communities through volunteering.

Our social investment has a wider impact on society by helping charities to carry out their work in areas such as improving human health and community cohesion, and protecting human rights and the environment. We have conducted research to understand the value of this impact to society. This shows that our pro bono work and charitable donations generated social benefits worth around £116 million, for example, by helping to improve health and well-being in communities. You can read more about how we calculate our impact.

How we manage

Our companies determine their own local social investment priorities. WPP the parent company encourages their work in this area and sometimes plays a role in coordinating pro bono assignments involving several WPP companies.

Performance in 2014

Our social investment was worth £21.8 million (2013: £19.6 million). This is equivalent to 1.5% of reported profit before tax. It includes cash donations to charities of £4.8 million and £17.0 million worth of pro bono work based on fees the organisations would have paid for our work. In addition, WPP media agencies negotiated free media space worth £25.1 million on behalf of pro bono clients (2013: £19.8 million), making the total social contribution £46.9 million (2013: £39.4 million).

The value of our social investment (pro bono work and charitable donations) increased by 11% on the previous year, while our overall contribution including free media space increased by 19%.

Vanessa Edwards

Vanessa Edwards
Head of Sustainability, WPP

“Our pro bono work is part of who we are at WPP, with many of our pro bono partnerships stretching back years or even decades. Our creative campaigns help pro bono clients make an impact in key areas such as education, health, the environment and human rights, and also provide our people with opportunities to take on exciting projects, to develop their capabilities and to make a difference in the world”

Our social contribution

We calculate our total social contribution as the value of our pro bono work, our charitable donations and the value of media space negotiated by WPP companies on behalf of pro bono clients. This came to £46.9 million in 2014, up 19% on 2013.

Total social contribution

Total social contribution (£m) - 2010: 34.6, 2011:  27.7, 2012: 30.5, 2013: 39.4, 2014: 46.9
  • Free media space
  • Charitable contributions
  • Pro bono contributions

Pro bono contributions

Pro bono contributions (£m) - 2010: 9.4, 2011: 10.5, 2012: 11.1, 2013: 14.7, 2014: 17.0

WPP companies undertook pro bono work worth £17.0 million in 2014. This is an increase of 16% on 2013.

Charitable contributions

Charitable contributions (£m) - 2010: 5.0, 2011: 4.8, 2012: 5.1, 2013: 4.9, 2014: 4.8

The Group and its companies made cash donations to charities worth £4.8 million in 2014, down 2% on 2013.

Free media space

Free media space (£m) - 2010: 20.2, 2011: 12.4, 2012: 14.3, 2013: 19.8, 2014: 25.1

WPP media agencies negotiated free media space worth £25.1 million on behalf of pro bono clients, up 27% on 2013.

Charitable donations by sector

Charitable donations by sector (%) - Arts 9, Education: 23, Environment: 2, Health: 22, Human rights: 4, Local community: 40
  • Arts 9
  • Education 23
  • Environment 2
  • Health 22
  • Human rights 4
  • Local community 40

Pro bono work by sector

Pro bono work by sector (%) - Arts 6, Education: 17, Environment: 5, Health: 39, Human rights: 2, Local community: 31
  • Arts 6
  • Education 17
  • Environment 5
  • Health 39
  • Human rights 2
  • Local community 31

Pro bono work by WPP research, PR and media companies

We publish a collection of recent pro bono campaigns by our advertising agencies and our branding, direct marketing and digital companies. This is available at Here we share a few examples of pro bono work by our PR companies and media agencies in 2014.

Supporting employee volunteering

Many of our people give their time as volunteers to charities and not-for-profit organisations in their local communities. Our companies support these efforts and many run company volunteering programs that benefit good causes while also supporting team working and employee engagement.

Many of our executives share their marketing expertise as advisors and trustees. A small selection is included opposite.

Bigger than Lightspeed GMI

Lightspeed GMI logo

Lightspeed GMI, the WPP research company, works in communities to run its research panels. Its businesses in the US and Canada have a strong tradition of community engagement and introduced Bigger than Lightspeed to give a focus to employee volunteering and community projects.

Each year, employees can take advantage of paid time off to volunteer for an organisation of their choice. Bigger than Lightspeed champions in each office also coordinate company activities that encourage employee participation and fundraising. Events were held across Lightspeed GMI offices during 2014, including bake sales, canned food drives, costume contests and sports days. Funds raised have benefited Habitat for Humanity, the Susan G Komen breast cancer charity and the Alzheimer’s Association among others.

Lightspeed GMI is part of the Kantar group and also supports its UNICEF Brighter Futures Campaign, which is raising $1 million to help underprivileged children in Bangladesh, Bolivia and Malawi.

WPP the company

Our operating companies contribute most of our social investment. WPP, the company also supports charities and non-profit organisations, with a focus on those working in the areas of education, the arts and with young people. We provide in-kind support including advice on communications strategy and implementation from some of our most experienced senior leaders as well as financial donations.

During 2014, we also made a donation of £30,000 to Save the Children’s Emergency Fund, which helps people caught up in natural disasters such as earthquakes and flooding. Donations to the Fund enable Save the Children to prepare in advance so it can respond within hours when a disaster strikes. In total, the Emergency Fund helped Save the Children respond to 55 humanitarian crises in 47 countries in 2014.

Recent organisations WPP has supported include:

  • Academy of St Martins In the Fields
  • Beanstalk, the volunteer reading charity
  • A Blueprint for Better Business
  • The British Museum
  • Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design
  • Coram (UK children’s charity)
  • The City UK
  • Dementia Friends
  • Education and Employers Task Force UK
  • FIA Road Safety Campaign
  • Gates Cambridge Scholarships
  • Grand Prix Mechanics Charity Trust
  • Henry Jackson Initiative
  • iCould
  • IESE Business School
  • Invictus Games
  • Movement to Work
  • NABS (which offers financial, practical and emotional support to those in the advertising industry)
  • National Centre for Universities and Business
  • National Citizen Service
  • National Equality Standard
  • The National History Museum
  • The National Portrait Gallery
  • Operation Hope
  • The Outward Bound Trust
  • Place2Be (school-based counselling service, dedicated to improving the emotional well-being of children)
  • The Prince’s Foundation
  • The Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Trust
  • Royal College of Music
  • The Royal Foundation
  • SANE
  • Science Museum
  • St Gabriel College
  • United for Wildlife
  • Wellbeing of Women
  • Word Economic Forum Sustainability Board.

Volunteering in our companies 2014

The Caritas Felices Home for abused girls

Kantar World Panel Peru: Helping improve the Caritas Felices Home for abused girls.

Building homes for families in need

Lightspeed Seattle: Building homes for families in need with Habitat for Humanity.

Improving living conditions in homes for orphans and street children

Kantar India: Improving living conditions in homes for orphans and street children supported by the Cherish Foundation.

Collecting coats to help New York

ghg New York: Collecting coats to help New York Cares provide warm clothing to people in need.

Cycling Children with Cerebral Palsy

Y&R South Africa: Cycling Children with Cerebral Palsy organised by the Paige Project.

Decorating and improving The House With No Steps

Y&R Sydney: Spending a day decorating and improving The House With No Steps, which supports people with disabilities.