Social investment

Fast read

Our Goal

We aim to support the work of charities and NGOs and have a positive impact on social issues by donating time, money and our creative expertise. We focus on:

  • Pro bono work, creative services provided for little or no fee
  • Negotiating free media space for charity campaigns
  • Charitable donations
  • Employee volunteering and fundraising

Through our social investment, we support the United Nations Sustainable Development goals and their ambition to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all.

Business value

Pro bono work provides exciting creative opportunities for our people, supporting their professional development. Our companies produce many award-winning pro bono campaigns each year, which enhances their creative reputation. Social investment supports our reputation and helps engage and motivate our people.

Sustainability impact

Our social investment has a positive impact in areas including community development, education, human rights, health, the environment and the arts. Our pro bono work is particularly important and often worth more than an equivalent cash donation because it enables charities to raise awareness and funds, recruit new members and achieve their campaigning goals.

Challenges and dilemmas

Social investment strategy is determined at operating company level, with WPP the parent company having limited control over the amount of time and resources donated. This means levels of investment can fluctuate year-on-year. It is challenging to measure the impact of our social investment, particularly as we work with so many different charity partners across our many locations.

Management approach

All our social investment falls within the broad themes of arts, education, environment, health, human rights and local community, with priorities, partners and projects determined at the local level by our operating companies. WPP, the parent company, helps coordinate some pro bono initiatives involving multiple WPP companies.

External frameworks

GRI indicators in this section: N/A

Global Compact Principles: 1, 8


Progress on our KPIs in 2015 Performance in 2015
£13.5 million in pro bono work decrease
£24.4 million worth of free media space negotiated by WPP companies decrease
£5.9 million in charitable donations increase
£43.8 million total social contribution decrease
Social investment equivalent to 1.3% of reported profit before tax decrease


increase   Improved

decrease   Decreased

Performance in 2015

Our social investment was worth £19.4 million (2014: £21.8 million). This is equivalent to 1.3% of reported profit before tax. It includes cash donations to charities of £5.9 million and £13.5 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 £24.4 million on behalf of pro bono clients (2014: £25.1 million), making the total social contribution £43.8 million (2014: £46.9 million).

The value of our social investment (pro bono work and charitable donations) decreased by 11% on the previous year, while our overall contribution including free media space was down by 7%. This drop is primarily due to a fall in the value of pro bono work from 2014, which was a year of particularly strong performance.

The impact of our social investment

Our support helps NGOs and charities to carry out their important work in areas such as improving health, education and protecting human rights. 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 £97 million in 2015, for example, by helping to improve health and well-being in communities. Read more in social impacts.

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 £13.5 million in 2015.

Charitable contributions

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

WPP companies made cash donations worth £5.9 million in 2015.

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 media space worth £24.4 million in 2015.

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 work by sector

Pro bono work by sector (%) - Arts 6, Education: 17, Environment: 5, Health: 39, Human rights: 2, Local community: 31
  • Arts 5
  • Education 13
  • Environment 5
  • Health 37
  • Human rights 4
  • Local community 36

Charitable donations by sector

Charitable donations by sector (%) - Arts 9, Education: 23, Environment: 2, Health: 22, Human rights: 4, Local community: 40
  • Arts 4
  • Education 23
  • Environment 1
  • Health 23
  • Human rights 8
  • Local community 41

Engaging the WPP Fellowship

The WPP Fellowship was established in 1995 to create future generations of leaders for WPP companies, attracting the best graduates from the world’s top universities and giving them a unique introduction to the world of marketing communications. The Fellowship is comprised of three one-year rotations through WPP companies, with a senior executive mentor from WPP assigned to provide overall career guidance. As well as working within our companies, we provide opportunities for our Fellows to use their skills to support social initiatives. This supports their professional development while making a real difference to communities around the world.

School class School meals School classroom

Working with The International Exchange

Through our partnership with The International Exchange (TIE), a non-profit organisation, operating in Recife, Brazil, many of our Fellows complete short-term work placements with nonprofits and social initiatives in emerging markets. Recent examples include:

Yewande Sokan of Maxus London worked with ActionAid and three other organizations in Pernambuco Brazil to raise awareness of gender violence and to teach children and teenagers about their rights. Together, they developed a campaign to help girls understand their self-worth and prevent them from falling into the cycle of prostitution.

Milla Chaplin of Mango Media, Myanmar worked with organisation CPP in Recife, Brazil, to develop a campaign to change the way public schools see and prepare school meals, to improve health and nutrition for children in poor communities.

Tiffany Winter of Mindshare Entertainment New York developed a campaign to raise awareness of The Golden Baobab, a Ghanaian organization working to address the issue of insufficient quality children’s books in Africa, and to discover, nurture and celebrate promising writers and illustrators of African children’s literature.

School class

Supporting the School of St Yared

The School of St Yared is committed to fighting poverty through education. Since 2009, the school has given Addis Ababa’s poorest and brightest children a world-class, bilingual education, three meals a day and regular health checks free of charge. The school relies on a small pool of donors to pay for each child’s education with all their fundraising and communications carried out by a group of dedicated volunteers based in Perth, Australia.

A team of WPP Fellows are supporting the School of St Yared, developing a communications strategy to engage their existing network and raise their profile with new donors. This has helped the school tell its story on Australian media, to run its first ever Christmas campaign and, for the first time, secure sponsorship for 40 new students before the start of the academic year. The Fellows also helped St Yared’s launch ‘Kids Helping Kids’, which encourages Australian schoolchildren to get involved in fundraising for the school. This raised over AUS$12,430 in six months.

Pro bono work by WPP research, PR and media companies

Our research, PR and media companies provide pro bono services to organisations working in areas such as health, education, human rights, community, the environment and the arts. A small selection of examples from 2015 are included below.

Selected pro bono campaigns by our advertising agencies and our branding, direct marketing and digital companies are published in our Pro bono book, available at

Employee volunteering and fundraising

Our employees give their time and raise funds to support the work of charities and community organisations. This also benefits our business by improving employee engagement and team working.

Sometimes our companies join together to support local causes. For example, during 2015, 15 WPP companies in the Philippines came together to help build 30 new typhoon-proof homes and a community hall for people displaced by Typhoon Haiyan. As well as giving their time as volunteers the agencies donated $121,000 to support the rebuilding work.

The Philippine offices of WPP companies Bates, GroupM, J. Walter Thompson, Kantar Media, Kantar Worldpanel, Kinetic Worldwide, Maxus, MEC, Millward Brown, Mindshare, Movent, Ogilvy & Mather, TNS, Wunderman, and Y&R recently partnered with Gawad Kalinga to build houses for families who were displaced by Typhoon Haiyan.

Volunteering and fundraising at our companies in 2015 included:

On 27 February 2015, every employee in GroupM Asia Pacific spent the day volunteering. Over 8,000 employees across 15 countries took part in the annual ‘Power of One Day’ event helping change the lives of over 20,000 people and raising $332,000.

Kantar companies have supported UNICEF since 2004 to help some of the world’s most vulnerable children. In 2015, its Brighter Futures fundraising program raised $55,200 to help children in countries such as Bangladesh, Bolivia, Malawi and Mauritania.

Employees from Y&R Group Mexico volunteered at Las Mercedes, a home which looks after orphans, children with cancer and low-income children.

During its ‘1 Week 4 Kids 2015’, Burson-Marsteller Spain employees supported NGO Soñar Despierto’s work with children and young adults in foster homes, spending time with the children and bringing them Christmas presents.

Hill+Knowlton Strategies South Africa supports the Thandulwazi Intern-Teacher Training Programme aimed at growing the number of professionally-trained teachers. 34 teacher interns attended H+K workshops, reaching some 1,000 Thandulwazi students and learners in the schools in which they trained.

Ogilvy & Mather and MediaCom London employees supported Centrepoint the homeless charity. Employees slept rough for one night to experience what life is like without a roof over your head and together raised £51,000 for the charity.

GroupM Pakistan supported the 141 Schools for Peace Project, that aims to build 141 new schools in memory of the 141 lives lost in the 2014 terrorist attack on a school in Peshawar. The agency organised The M-Carnival for Mending Little Hearts, with food, entertainment and games that raised $10,000 in donations.

MEC London took over a stadium, bringing its 500 staff members together to cook meals to feed 5,000 of the capital’s vulnerable people. The meals were distributed by FareShare to homeless shelters, women’s refuge centres, luncheon clubs for the elderly and children’s breakfast clubs and it was the largest meal donation in the organisation’s history.

WPP the parent company

Most of our social investments are made by our operating companies, but we also make donations from WPP, the parent company. These focus on organisations working in the areas of education, the arts and young people. Our senior executives also act as communications advisors to many NGOs and non-profits.

On occasion, we partner with our clients on social causes. For example, during 2015, Sir Martin Sorrell participated in the Leadership Lessons initiative of the Vodafone Foundation and United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees to provide advice and inspiration to young refugees. Sir Martin Sorrell participated in a one-hour lesson to a group of children and teenagers in Kenya via video link.

WPP India CSR Foundation

India is one of the world’s fastest-growing economies and an important market for WPP, but the country faces many social challenges. Only 44% of children in India complete schooling up to class 10 (around age 15), with poverty a major barrier to education for many children.

Our business in India has established the WPP India CSR Foundation, with a vision to “Enable children and youth from vulnerable and marginalised communities to achieve their full potential through holistic child development with a focus on education, life skills and health”. This will bring together all the social investment activities of WPP companies in India, contribute to positive social change in the country and help us comply with regulatory requirements. The Foundation, established in 2015, will be investing £3 million to reach 10,000 children aged 11-18 over the next three years with a focus on supporting education and vocational training. Programs will be run in partnership with well-established local non-profit organisations the Genesis Foundation, Hope For Children and Magic Bus.

Recent organisations WPP has supported include:

  • 3H Fund
  • Action for Children
  • ActionAid
  • Anthony Nolan Marketing
  • Caryl Jenner Productions Ltd
  • Chai Cancer Care
  • Clapton Common Boys’ Club
  • Clover House Therapy
  • Crackerjacks
  • Douglas Baker Foundation
  • Drive Forward Foundation
  • Farms for City Children
  • Garden House Parents Association
  • Happy Days
  • Have Stick Will Travel
  • In Touch
  • Jewish Blind And Disabled
  • Kids Cancer Charity
  • Listening Books
  • Lively Minds
  • Nabs Trading Ltd
  • National Portrait Gallery
  • Northside Youths & Community Connections
  • Police Community Clubs of Great Britain
  • Respite Association
  • Royal British Legion
  • Royal Star & Garter Homes
  • Sane
  • Save the Children UK
  • Sightsavers International
  • Spadework Ltd
  • Special Olympics Inc
  • Starlight Children’s Foundation
  • Sunny Days Children Fund
  • Suu Foundation
  • The Fifth Trust
  • The Food Chain
  • The History Of Advertising Trust
  • The INSEAD Trust For European Management Education
  • The Jennifer Trust
  • The Matthew Trust
  • The Outward Bound Trust
  • The Presidents Club Charitable Trust
  • The Prince’s Foundation for Building Community
  • The Queen Alexandra Hospital Home
  • Tower Hamlets Mission
  • Union of Jewish Students
  • Wellbeing Of Women
  • West Coast Crash Wheelchair Rugby
  • World Jewish Relief