Our client work

Fast read

Our goal

We seek to work with clients to engage citizens and consumers on sustainability issues, while minimising ethical risks to WPP and our clients.

We focus on:

  • Sustainability in marketing
  • Ethical standards
  • Human rights
  • Public policy and lobbying
  • Privacy and data security

Business value

Sustainability-related and social marketing services are an important part of our work and a growing source of revenue. Leading privacy practices enable us to access new business and reduce financial, legal and reputational risks to the business.

Sustainability impact

Our communications and marketing expertise can help to increase the market for products and services with sustainability credentials.

Challenges and dilemmas

We operate in 112 countries around the world against a background of fast-moving technology. We need to understand the local context, while maintaining consistently high standards in relation to ethical conduct and privacy and data security in all our markets and when acquiring new businesses.

We rely on our people and leaders to make the right judgement in relation to ethical issues in client work and such issues are not always easy to identify or resolve.

Management approach

We have created a suite of policies and documents to guide our people, including our Code of Business Conduct, Human Rights Policy Statement and Sustainability Policy. All our people complete online ethics training, which helps them deal with a wide range of ethical, social and environmental subjects.

Complementing our Group-wide policies are the detailed policies on marketing standards and other issues which are set at the local level.

All companies must comply with WPP data and security policies, and WPP’s Data Code of Conduct. Our IT Security (ITS) audit team monitors compliance.

Under our governance structure, responsibility for ethics and compliance lies with our deputy general counsel, litigation and compliance, who provides support and guidance to our companies. She reports to our Group chief counsel and director of internal audit.

External frameworks

GRI indicators in this section: G4-2 (M), G4-15, G4-16, G4-34 (M), G4-56 (M), G4-58, G4-HR2 (M), G4-HR6, G4-SO4, G4-SO6, G4-PR7 (M), G4-PR8

Global Compact Principles: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 9, 10

Progress on our KPIs in 2016 Performance in 2016
£1.64 billion revenue from clients who engaged with WPP on sustainability Increased
126,700 people completed refreshed anti-bribery and corruption training in 2016 New kpi
124,960 people completed our ethics training in 2016 New kpi
Over 154,570 people completed online Privacy and Data Security Awareness training Increased


Increased  Increased

New KPI New KPI 

Sustainability in marketing

Our companies work with a growing number of clients to integrate sustainability and purpose into brands and consumer and stakeholder communications. This includes:

  • Data investment management: Providing insight into future trends, changing consumer attitudes to social and environmental issues and testing the impact of sustainability strategy and communications approaches.
  • Branding and identity: Integrating social and environmental values into brand and business strategy.
  • Consumer communications: Helping clients communicate credibly with consumers and citizens on sustainability and generate sales of sustainable products.
  • Internal communications: Engaging internal audiences on social and environmental issues.
  • Stakeholder communications: Our public relations and public affairs companies help clients to communicate with regulators, the media, NGOs and the public on sustainability issues.

WPP, the parent company, supports our companies in sharing their expertise. We run regular events, publish background briefings on our Group intranet and foster collaboration through our ‘Sustainability Navigator’, a directory of sustainability expertise within WPP.

Social marketing

Social marketing raises awareness of issues of public interest – health, safety or the environment – and creates behaviour change for the benefit of society as a whole. We work with many clients including governments and NGOs on social marketing campaigns.

In this period of falling trust in governments, public policy goals cannot be achieved without effective communications. The Government & Public Sector Practice brings together our best thinking and expertise for policy makers and communicators in national and local government, public institutions and international organisations (see www.wpp.com/govtpractice/). Our companies work for the public sector in more than 70 countries.

The Government & Public Sector Practice advises policymakers and public sector communication leaders on strategy, innovation, capability development and global best practice. Our team of senior consultants connects clients with the best ideas and expertise in WPP’s global network. 

We also partner with leading schools of public policy to train future government leaders on the strategic use of communications. In the UK, we teach a module on Communications for Public Policy, part of the Master of Public Policy program at the Blavatnik School of Government, University of Oxford. In Singapore, we partner with the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy to provide an executive education program on Communications for Public Policy Delivery.

Cause-related marketing

We help clients to partner with charities through cause-related marketing campaigns. These can be effective in raising the profile of the brand while engaging consumers and raising funds to benefit social and environmental causes.

Recent client work

Investing in creativity

Our companies track new ideas and innovation, and run events and programs to expose our people to new ideas for the benefit of our clients and our people’s development.

Hill+Knowlton Strategies London, for example, runs the Collider Program, to stimulate an entrepreneurial mindset among its people and enhance understanding of the real-world potential of technology to change the future.

Our dedicated global retail practice, The Store, helps our operating companies to invest in the creativity of their workforce and challenge the conventional in the retail arena. The Store holds seminars, hands-on innovation technology sessions and thought leadership programs in areas including product customisation, personalisation, artificial intelligence, Internet of Things (IoT) and many others. It develops partnerships with technology start-ups who bring their specialist knowledge to our companies. Its IoT innovation kit, a simple but effective set of tools allows our retail clients to customise and harness the power of the IoT. Our creative teams can use the kit to prototype new ideas at speed; and the simplicity of the kit means that they are not required to understand computer code.

Our WPPED Cream Awards recognise the very best creative work produced by WPP companies in all disciplines across nine categories (see www.wpp.com/wppedcream). Our Atticus Awards honour original thinking in communications from professionals within WPP. For the 2016/17 awards, entrants were invited to consider the commercial value of brands with a social purpose. The category winners receive a cash prize and extracts from the winning and other outstanding entries will be published in the Atticus Journal, during 2017. Our WPP Partnership Awards recognise collaborations across marketing disciplines which demonstrably enhance client service.

Externally, work by WPP companies was recognised in The Good Report 2016, which highlights the contribution of advertising to tackling social and environmental issues. Geometry Global’s work for the Colombian Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources was ranked 2nd in the Report with 12 other campaigns by WPP agencies appearing in the top 30. The Good Report is published by ACT Responsible, an international non-profit association, and the Gunn Report, the global index of creative excellence in advertising.

We were also named Holding Company of the Year at the 2016 Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity for the sixth year running; ranked Most Effective Holding Company, globally, in the 2016 Effie Effectiveness Index for the fifth consecutive year; awarded top holding company in Warc’s 100 annual ranking of the world’s best campaigns and companies for the third consecutive year; and ranked Holding Company of the Year 2016 at The One Show.

Our thinking and insight

WPP companies invest in thought leadership on sustainability, exploring how the power of marketing can be used to advance progress on social and environmental issues. New thinking and insights developed within our companies can help clients achieve commercial goals, create brands with purpose and contribute to positive social change.

James Powell


Consumer attitudes to sustainability – global trends, local differences

James Powell
Senior marketing manager,
Kantar Media

Consumer trends in sustainability are far from static, both in terms of how they shift over time and how they vary between markets. Businesses wishing to engage with consumers on sustainability should be mindful of the ebb and flow of such trends to ensure that they are in tune with the issues of particular interest to their key targets.

Data from Kantar Media’s TGI studies of consumer behaviour, tracked and expanded over almost 50 years, reveal sustainability trends in major markets around the world. Recently we have looked at differences and similarities in four countries: Great Britain, India, Brazil and China1.

Consumers in Great Britain positive about sustainability

In Great Britain, a number of measures of sustainability are as positive as they have been in recent history. For example, today, 64% of adults agree ‘it is important that a company acts ethically’ – an increase from 54% in 2011. Similarly, 36% of adults say they like to buy products from companies who give something back to society – up from 30% in 2012. Young adults in particular are keen that companies give something back.

Beyond company ethics, the trend stretches into other areas, such as equality and the environment. Today, two-thirds of adults agree ‘I think we should strive for equality for all’, compared to 55% in 2010. In addition, 40% of adults are prepared to make lifestyle compromises to benefit the environment, up from 34% in 2012.

1 Great Britain (Great Britain TGI): All adults aged 15+, China (China CNRS): Adults living in the 60 biggest cities, aged 15-69, India (India TGI): 15-55 year olds in ABC social grades living in state capitals and urban towns of selected states, Brazil (Brazil Target Group Index): All adults aged 12-75 living in nine major metropolitan areas.

It should be noted that much of the comparison here is against those years when Britain was still seeking to recover from the 2008 financial downturn. The downturn appears to have had a hand in prompting a decline in agreement with a number of sustainability-related attitudes, as many consumers felt compelled to focus on their own, closer-to-home priorities. However, as the economy recovered, so too did the sustainability conscience of British consumers.

Chinese consumers becoming more positive about sustainability, Indian consumers more negative

Consumers in China and India show a marked difference to each other in sustainability trends. In China, recent years have seen a significant shift towards greater consumer commitment to sustainability, in a variety of guises. Now 75% of Chinese adults claim to support companies who make a contribution to society and 74% state that merchants’ ethics affect their purchase decisions, up from 52% and 53% respectively in 2011.

Environmental concerns are also of growing interest, possibly driven by issues of smog pollution recently becoming a critical problem for many cities in China – 73% of Chinese adults now state that they would buy environmentally-friendly products. In addition, those who say they make a conscious effort to recycle has grown from 46% in 2011 to 75% today.

Conversely, India has seen a dip in interest in corporate ethics in recent years. In 2010, 62% of consumers felt it important that a company acts ethically, but today it has dropped to 51%. Likewise, while two-thirds of adults in 2010 were prepared to make lifestyle compromises to benefit the environment, today it is 61%.

Brazilian consumers show little shift in sustainability attitudes

If China is seemingly headed in one direction on sustainability and India in the other, what of another BRICS giant, Brazil? The short answer is consumers there are somewhat in the middle. Today, 56% of Brazilian adults say they prefer products from companies which support social and cultural projects, which is a small reduction on the 2010 figure of 58%. In addition, 57% are today willing to volunteer for a good cause, modestly below the 2010 figure of 59%.

When it comes to the environment there is also little change. Over half (55%) of Brazilian consumers are prepared to make lifestyle compromises to benefit the environment, which is the same proportion as in 2010. It is worth noting, however, that this is a lower proportion than for Indian consumers.

To conclude...

Consumer attitudes and behaviour towards sustainability show marked differences between countries and over time. It is therefore important that businesses ensure their corporate sustainability stance is robust and flexible enough to engage consumers in different markets with differing prevailing views on sustainability in its many forms.

Shelina Janmohamed

New thinking:

Deep green consumerism, and why brands need to add ‘tayyab’ to their vocabulary

Shelina Janmohamed
Vice president, Ogilvy Noor and author of Generation M: Young Muslims Changing the World.

When we talk of Muslim consumers, our first thought most likely runs to halal meat. Of course, that’s if we think of Muslims as a consumer group at all.

In fact, the Muslim lifestyle market today is worth an estimated $2.6 trillion, and spans all categories, from food and finance, to fashion and pharmaceuticals. There are significant opportunities for brands able to engage this growing demographic and to reflect Muslim consumers in their advertising and product ranges. What’s more, a growing faith-inspired eco-consciousness means there are positive implications for ethical and values-based consumerism and for brands with strong sustainability credentials.

Meet Generation M

The 1.6 billion global Muslim population is incredibly young. One third are under 15 and two-thirds are under 30. Among this vast and growing group is Generation M, a cohort that believes that being faithful and modern go hand-in-hand, that there is no contradiction between the two, and in fact they are complementary. They believe that being faithful makes the world better, and the modern world enhances their faith. They are proud of their Muslim identity, tech savvy and globally conscious.

Among their characteristics are creativity and entrepreneurship – the economics of the internet have allowed many of them to build businesses that they feel help them to uphold their values. They see their businesses serving a wider social good. And it’s not just for Muslims, the values they imbue into their businesses are designed to make things better for everyone.

The language of universal values

The halal stamp might have once been enough to brand a product as something for Muslims. But today, the brands that Generation M want to consume and the ones they create, must go beyond a simple tick box exercise of ‘halal’. They want brands that embody ethics, the spirit of halal. They call this spirit, ‘tayyab’.

The spirit of halal, tayyab, means that every aspect of the supply chain, from materials and sourcing, to fair wages, to distribution, packaging and disposal must meet higher standards. Creation and consumption must be ‘good’ in a holistic sense.

Generation M cover

Faithful pioneers

Generation M are translating their faith into the language of universal values, to connect to other Muslims, to wider societies, and to build the businesses and brands that they feel are missing from communities and high streets around the world. These universal values underpin a growing movement towards faith-inspired eco-consciousness. For example:

  • Muslim fashionistas (‘hijabistas’) are not only creating a modest fashion revolution, they are increasingly concerned about the provenance and recycling of their clothes. Aab clothing, a UK brand that has signed to high street retailer Debenhams, for example, takes pride in its premium positioning that is built on fair wages for its workers.
  • Fashion is going hand-in-hand with beauty. Alongside a desire to have animal-free and alcohol-free ingredients, Generation M consumers are keen that the ingredients are sourced well, are natural and free of harm to themselves and to the environment.
  • Halal organic farms are being set up around the world to ensure that supply is not just halal, but also tayyab. Halal suppliers are looking at inserting RFID chips into animals so that the entire farm-to-fork journey can be tracked and consumers can be confident of an animal’s welfare.

Embracing tayyab

So how will global brands rise to the challenge? It’s clear that thinking about halal is a must for a business wanting to reach out to Muslim minority and majority countries. And so is inclusion of Muslim voices, needs and presence in branding. These are basic issues to establish to enter this consumer space.

There are even more opportunities, however, for brands able to understand and implement tayyab values. What’s more, by speaking to Generation M consumers in the language of universal values they will increase their appeal to wider audiences too.

Ogilvy Noor is the world’s first bespoke consultancy for engaging with Muslim audiences. It is part of the Ogilvy network.



Our ethical standards

The WPP Code of Business Conduct provides the ethical framework for WPP and our companies. It sets out the values, principles and key points of policy that apply to everyone at WPP and that our companies must reflect in their own policies and procedures. It is supported by more detailed policies in key areas including anti-bribery and corruption, gifts and entertainment and the appointment of third-party advisors. You can read our Code of Business Conduct.

Senior managers in all our companies and our business and supplier partners are asked to sign a copy of the WPP Code of Business Conduct each year to confirm they will comply with its principles.

Breaches or alleged breaches of the Code are investigated by the director of internal audit, the Group chief counsel and external advisers where appropriate.

Our people can report concerns or suspected cases of misconduct in confidence through our third party-managed Right to Speak facility, overseen by our legal and internal audit departments. This is publicised through induction packs, the Group intranet, the WPP Policy Book and our ethics training. There were 70 calls made via Right to Speak during 2016, all of which were followed up, investigated where appropriate and reported to the Audit Committee.

We have a Group-level committee that meets regularly to discuss ethical and compliance issues and new risk areas. Committee members include the Group chief counsel, deputy general counsel, litigation and compliance, Group finance director, the head of talent and the head of sustainability. The committee met twice in 2016.

Ethics training

Our ethics training, ‘How we behave’, is compulsory for all our people. It covers topics such as diversity, human rights and avoiding misleading work. Our online training on anti-bribery and corruption covers the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and UK Bribery Act on issues such as hospitality and gifts, facilitation payments and the use of third-party advisors. During 2017, we will be including unconscious bias scenarios into this training.

Training is updated every 2-3 years and our people are required to repeat the training following each update. Over 126,700 people have completed our anti-bribery and corruption training and 124,960 have completed our ethics training since the last update in summer 2016.

Associates, acquisitions and partners

We expect associate companies (those in which we hold a minority stake) and affiliate companies (preferred partners to whom we may refer business) to adopt ethical standards that are consistent with our own.

Our due diligence process for acquisitions and expansion into new markets includes a review of ethical risks including those relating to bribery and corruption, human rights or ethical issues associated with client work. We take steps to ensure that acquired businesses embed our policies and undertake our ethics training. We enter into contractual commitments to comply with WPP policies and to undertake the Group training programs within a short time-frame of joining the Group.

We expect supplier partners to meet high ethical standards and require all major supplier partners to sign our Code of Business Conduct – Supplier Version, which interprets our own Code for our supply chain.

Compliance with marketing standards

We expect our companies to comply with all relevant legal requirements and codes of practice for marketing standards in the work they produce for clients. A small number of the campaigns we produce give rise to complaints, some of which are upheld by marketing standards authorities. Our companies take action where needed to prevent a recurrence.

Our companies participate in industry groups and help to develop and evolve codes of practice for the marketing industry to reflect changing attitudes and new issues that arise as technology develops.

Ethical decisions in our work

Our work for clients can sometimes raise ethical issues, for example, work for government clients, work relating to sensitive products or marketing to children. We have a review and referral process for work that may present an ethical risk.

Before accepting potentially sensitive work, our people are required to elevate the decision to the most senior person in the relevant office and then to the most senior executive of the WPP company in the country concerned, who will decide if further referral to a WPP executive is required. Our people are trained on this referral process during our ethics training.

Companies also have copy-checking and clearance processes through which campaigns are reviewed by the legal team before publication. Requirements are particularly comprehensive in sectors such as pharmaceutical marketing which are highly regulated.

Human rights

Respect for human rights is a fundamental principle for WPP. In our business activities we aim to prevent, identify and address negative impacts on human rights and we look for opportunities to positively promote and support human rights, including children’s rights.

Our Human Rights Policy Statement, published in 2015, summarises our approach to human rights. It reflects international standards and principles, including the International Bill of Human Rights, the UN’s Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, the International Labour Organization’s Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work and the Children’s Rights and Business Principles. The policy is available in the WPP Human Rights Policy Statement.

We updated a number of other policies relating to employment and procurement during 2016 to ensure they reflect our commitment to human rights.

We train our people on a number of human rights issues through scenarios in our ethics training including non-discrimination, marketing to children and human rights in the supply chain. This training is completed by all our people.

We are members of the United Nations Global Compact and committed to making progress against its ten principles, see United Nations Global Compact Index.

Our human rights impacts and opportunities

Our main human rights impact is as a major employer and we aim to embed respect for human rights into our employment practices. Read more here.

We can have a positive impact on human rights in our supply chain. We work with supplier partners on human rights and set clear standards through our Code of Business Conduct for Suppliers.

Client marketing campaigns can have an impact on human rights and, where relevant, we work with our clients on these issues. This includes protecting children’s rights in relation to marketing. WPP companies will not undertake work designed to mislead on human rights issues.

Communications campaigns can be used to raise awareness of human rights issues and to encourage action to protect human rights. Our companies provide creative services to organisations involved in protecting and promoting human rights, often on a pro bono basis. This is our main opportunity to positively promote human rights. Many examples are included in our Pro bono book, www.wpp.com/probono/2016/.

Operating in sensitive countries

WPP operates in 112 countries. We use a variety of sources to understand and manage any risks associated with different countries of operation, including the Transparency International Corruption Index, Human Rights Watch country reports and any relevant governmental guidance. We comply with all relevant sanctions regimes.

Our direct and indirect human rights impacts

Our direct and indirect human rights impacts

  • Direct impact
  • Indirect influence
  • Indirect influence
  • Indirect influence

Modern slavery

We do not tolerate any form of modern slavery, forced labour or human trafficking in any part of our business or supply chain. As part of our due diligence processes we have assessed the risk of modern slavery for WPP amongst our direct workforce, whereby we concluded the risk to be very low. In early 2017 we conducted compulsory training for our central Commercial and Procurement Services Team on the risks and issues of modern slavery. We are providing guidance and support to our operating companies to help them comply with the UK Modern Slavery Act.

During 2017, we will publish our first annual slavery and human trafficking statement in response to the UK’s Modern Slavery Act. This will contain more information on our approach and be publicly available on our website. See Modern Slavery Act Transparency Statement.

Living wage

We support the principle that workers should be paid enough to provide a decent standard of living. This principle is known as the ‘living wage’. In the UK, the Living Wage Foundation, a not-for-profit organisation, calculates the voluntary living wage which exceeds the UK’s statutory national living wage.

The vast majority of our people already earn significantly above the voluntary living wage rate. However, wage rates in our supply chain may be lower. It is our policy for WPP, the parent company, and all our UK companies, to pay the voluntary living wage set by the Living Wage Foundation to all our people and all on-site contractors such as cleaning, security and catering staff in the UK.

Our policy is not to offer unpaid internships and apprenticeships anywhere in the world.

Public policy and lobbying

The business community can make an important contribution to the debate on regulation and government policy. However, to protect the public interest, it is important that business lobbying is conducted with honesty, integrity and transparency.

We have a number of public affairs businesses that carry out public policy work for clients, including direct lobbying of public officials and influencing public opinion. Our public affairs companies include: Burson-Marsteller, and its affiliates: Prime Policy Group, Direct Impact and Penn Schoen Berland; Finsbury; Glover Park Group; Hill+Knowlton Strategies, and its affiliates: Dewey Square Group and Wexler & Walker Public Policy Associates; OGR; QGA. The majority of their work takes place in the US and the EU, although many of our clients are multinational companies.

On occasion, we also engage in the public policy process on issues that affect WPP and our companies. This section explains our approach to political activities in both areas.

Our standards

We recognise the importance of transparency and high ethical standards in our public policy activity. We are governed by our Code of Business Conduct, which commits us to acting ethically in all aspects of our business and to maintaining the highest standards of honesty and integrity. In all instances, we respect national laws and any other laws with an international reach, such as the UK Bribery Act and the US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, where relevant, and industry codes of conduct. We also have more detailed policies on issues such as hospitality and gifts, facilitation payments and the use of third-party advisors.

In addition, many of our companies are members of professional organisations and abide by their codes of conduct. Examples include the UK’s Association of Professional Political Consultants (APPC), the self-regulatory body for UK public affairs practitioners, and the European Public Affairs Consultancies’ Association (EPACA) the representative trade body for public affairs consultancies working with EU institutions.

In relation to our work for clients, WPP companies comply with all applicable laws and regulations governing the disclosure of public affairs activities. In the US, this includes the Lobby Disclosure Act and the Foreign Agent Registration Act, which are designed to achieve transparency on client representation and require lobby firms to register the names of clients on whose behalf they contact legislators or executive branch personnel. A number of our companies are listed on the voluntary EU Transparency Register of lobbying activities.

It is WPP’s practice that those of its US companies whose sole or primary business is lobbying have representatives of both major political parties among senior management.

We will not undertake work that is intended or designed to mislead. We do not knowingly represent ‘front groups’ (organisations which purport to be independent NGOs but are controlled by another organisation for the purpose of misleading) and seek to ensure we are aware of who the underlying client is before taking on work.

Mark Linaugh, chief talent officer, has overall responsibility for our public affairs practices and ultimate responsibility for our political activities rests with our Board. We have a Group-level committee that meets regularly to discuss ethical and compliance issues including in relation to political activities, see Our ethical standards above.

Any associates carrying out political activities on our behalf are expected to comply with our Code of Business Conduct and other relevant policies.

Political contributions

WPP the parent company does not make political contributions. WPP companies do not make political contributions from corporate resources with the occasional exception of very small, lawful contributions to local candidates or parties in the US or UK. No corporate contributions of any kind, including the provision of services or materials for less than market value, may be made to politicians, political parties or action committees, without the prior written approval of the WPP Board.

In countries where it is consistent with applicable law, individuals working at WPP companies may make personal voluntary political contributions directly to candidates for office. Several of our businesses, including Burson-Marsteller, Glover Park Group, Hill+Knowlton Strategies, Prime Policy Group and Wexler & Walker, also maintain political action committees (PACs) which accept voluntary donations from their people to support political candidates. During 2015 and 2016, around $264,000 was given through these PACs to federal candidates.

Lobbying and political advocacy

We occasionally contribute to the debate on public policy issues relevant to our business, sometimes operating through our public affairs companies. This can include issues relevant to our sector or the general business environment. Like several of our operating companies, WPP itself is listed on the EU Transparency Register. Our companies also contribute to public debate in areas where they have expertise and a special interest – our digital and research companies, for example, are involved on privacy and data protection issues.

We work with our peers and governments on a number of sustainability issues, for example, launching the Common Ground initiative in 2016 with then UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon, see Finding Common Ground for the Global Goals.

We follow government rules in relation to ‘cooling-off’ periods for people joining WPP from public office or the public sector.

Membership of trade associations and public policy groups

We are members of trade associations, industry groups and memberships organisations which undertake lobbying activity on behalf of their members. At a parent company level our memberships in the US include the American Benefits Council, British American Business Inc, The Business Council, Business Roundtable, Council on Foreign Relations, Northeast Business Group on Health and the Wall Street Journal CEO Council. In the UK they include the All Party Parliamentary Corporate Responsibility Group, British American Business London Transatlantic Council, Business Disability Forum, CBI, Chambre de Commerce Française de Grande Bretagne, China Britain Business Council, Institute of Business Ethics, PARC, Trilateral Commission, Women on Boards and the World Economic Forum.

Privacy and data security

Consumer data is used extensively in developing, implementing and monitoring marketing campaigns and is particularly important to the services provided by our digital marketing and insight businesses. It enables our companies to create tailored marketing, improves consumer engagement and allows for more accurate measurement of the effectiveness of campaigns.

We have rigorous privacy and data security standards and procedures governing how we collect, use and store this data to protect consumer privacy and reduce risks to our business. This topic is of increasing interest to clients, regulators and investors, in particular since EU privacy laws have been updated due to the pending implementation of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the issuing in early 2017 of the draft ePrivacy Regulation.

We also work with our peers, clients and industry bodies to improve privacy practices including the Interactive Advertising Bureau.

Our standards

All WPP companies must follow the WPP Data Code of Conduct as well as our global IT security, privacy and social media policies. Our Data Code of Conduct provides a clear framework for all our companies to implement privacy best practice.

Our WPP Client Contract Toolkit helps WPP companies understand how privacy and data protection criteria should be integrated into client contracts. In 2017, we will be launching a GDPR Toolkit to provide advice and assistance to our companies on the new legislation and how practical measures can be taken to ensure they are compliant.

Any supplier who collects, manages or stores consumer or client data on behalf of WPP companies and our clients must have the right data security and privacy standards in place. We are also identifying and managing data privacy and security risks in our supply chain, working with Sedex, (the sustainability supply chain platform), see Supply chain.

Changes in technology create new privacy risks and we keep our approach and the guidance we provide to our companies under continual review.

Raising awareness

We continue to push our SAFER DATA initiative, a privacy and security awareness campaign and online platform with information and guidance for our people on the importance of privacy risk and data security. This covers topics such as phishing, safe file sharing, avoiding rogue wifi networks and setting strong passwords and uses a humorous short video to engage attention. It includes a ‘SAVEMYDATA’ reporting tool, to allow our people to raise concerns and questions they have about data issues direct with our in-house legal teams.

We will use SAFER DATA as our platform for the launch of our GDPR Toolkit. In 2016, we started running workshops on GDPR to raise awareness of this important subject and this will continue in 2017.

Our mandatory global online Privacy and Data Security Awareness training has been completed by 154,570 people.

Monitoring implementation

We have a central team of legal, audit and compliance professionals who support WPP companies on privacy. Our internal audit team reviews privacy risks and practices as part of its Group-wide audit program, focusing on different companies each year. Our teams are working with our companies to ensure they are ready to comply with the GDPR when it comes into force in May 2018.

We used our Data Health Checker in 2016 for the fourth year running to review privacy risks and data security practices in our businesses. The results showed us that the majority of our companies have mitigation measures that match or exceed their level of privacy risk, with the average score being 2.9 out of 5, where 5 is the maximum score possible. Of those companies surveyed, 76% have a dedicated privacy lead and 79% have trained all of their people on data security and privacy in addition to Group training, which is an increase of over 20% from 2015.


Our principles

WPP, its companies and its people are committed to responsible collection, management, use and protection of data.

WPP recognises its obligations to all its stakeholders including share owners, clients, its own people, suppliers and consumers.

WPP works with many categories of data and uses the term data in its broadest sense. We include within this definition client data, consumer data and all information and data related to the operation of our businesses.

Our practices

  • We will be transparent with consumers.
  • We will treat data in accordance with all applicable laws, regulations and treaties.
  • We will implement fair and reasonable data policies and procedures.
  • We will treat data as confidential.
  • We will understand not only what data we hold but also its relevance to stakeholders.
  • We will secure, collect, process, use and store data appropriately.
  • We will ensure that data is retained appropriately.
  • We will implement necessary and appropriate technical measures to secure data.
  • We will delete data when required to do so.
  • We will ensure our people understand their role in upholding these principles and practices.