Social investment

Fast read

Our goal

We aim to support the UN Sustainable Development Goals and their ambition to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all through:

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

Business value

The benefits of pro bono work flow both ways. As we support the vital work of charities and NGOs, we access exciting creative opportunities for our people, supporting their professional development. As part of their pro bono work, our companies produce many award-winning campaigns, which enhances their creative reputation. Companies with sustainability credentials have a higher reputation among the workforce – actual and prospective – and our social investment helps motivate our people.

Sustainability impact

By contributing to the success of charities and NGOs, we help to ensure that they can achieve their aims in a sustainable, long-term way. Our pro bono work is especially valuable because campaigns and awareness raising are key tools in enabling them to achieve their aims – and our input is often worth more than an equivalent cash donation.

Challenges and dilemmas

Social investment is carried out at a local level by our operating companies. As the parent company, WPP has limited control over the amount of time and resources donated. It is hard to measure the impact of our social investment, particularly as we work with so many different charity partners across our many locations.

Management approach

Our social investment falls within the broad themes of arts, education, environment, health, human rights and local community. Individual projects are decided by our local operating companies, but WPP, the parent company, helps coordinate some pro bono initiatives involving multiple WPP companies.

External frameworks

GRI indicators in this section: G4-22

Global Compact Principles: 1, 8

Progress on our KPIs in 2016 Performance in 2016
£12.5m in pro bono work decreased
£7.0m in charitable donations increased
£19.5m total social investment, equivalent to 1.03% of reported profit before tax increased
£22.8m worth of free media space negotiated by WPP companies increased
£42.3m total social contribution, equivalent to 2.23% of reported profit before tax increased


increased   Improved

decreased   Decreased

Performance in 2016

In 2016, our social investment amounted to £19.5 million (2015: £19.4 million), equivalent to 1.03% of reported profits before tax (2015: 1.3%). Cash donations to charities stood at £7.0 million and the worth of pro bono work – based on fees the organisations would have paid for our work if we had charged commercially – at £12.5 million. The value of our social investment (pro bono work and charitable donations) increased by 0.5% on the previous year.

Our companies also negotiate free media space for charity campaigns, enabling them to reach a wide audience. This free media space was worth £22.8 million in 2016 (2015: £20.8 million) bringing our total social contribution to £42.3 million (2015: £40.2 million). This is equivalent to 2.23% of reported profit before tax. We identified an error in our exchange rate calculation for free media space in 2015 and as a result have restated our data for 2015.

The impact of our social investment

Our support helps NGOs and charities to carry out important work in areas such as improving health and 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 £156 million in 2016, for example, by helping to improve health and well-being in communities. Read more in social impacts.

Pro bono contributions

WPP companies undertook pro bono work worth £12.5 million in 2016.

Charitable contributions

WPP companies made cash donations worth £7.0 million in 2016.

Free media space

WPP media agencies negotiated media space worth £22.8 million in 2016.

Charitable donations by sector

  • Arts 4
  • Education 21
  • Environment 1
  • Health 20
  • Human rights 8
  • Local community 46

Pro bono work by sector

  • Arts 8
  • Education 21
  • Environment 7
  • Health 25
  • Human rights 6
  • Local community 33

Total social contribution

  • Free media space
  • Charitable contributions
  • Pro bono contributions

Volunteering and fundraising

We encourage our people to take part in the work of local charities and community organisations and help raise funds for them. This also benefits our business by improving team working and engagement with our people. Around 49% of our companies have a formal volunteering policy and 56% organise volunteering activities for their people.

Recent examples include:

WPP company: Kinetic UK
Cause: Church Housing Trust

The Church Housing Trust (CHT) provides modest grants to homeless people to help them get their lives back on track. In 2016, Kinetic UK raised over £70,000 for the charity through volunteering initiatives. Around £20,000 of that money is being used to provide IT skills to help homeless people apply for jobs.

WPP company: Sentrix Health
Cause: National Brain Tumour Society

Sentrix Health created an internal campaign to encourage people to participate in the NYC Brain Tumour Walk, in support of the National Brain Tumour Society. A series of posters were developed by creative teams featuring artistic interpretations of the left and right sides of the brain. The initiative was inspired by the experience of a Sentrix employee whose father received a diagnosis of stage 4 glioblastoma in 2013 and passed away just over a year later, largely because of a lack of effective treatment options. Sentrix raised $3,300 for the organisation and the campaign took bronze at PM360 Pharma Choice Awards.

WPP company: Kantar
Cause: Unicef

Kantar established the Brighter Futures fundraising program for Unicef across all of its operating businesses in 2010. Through this partnership, Kantar is helping to protect children in Bangladesh, Bolivia, Malawi and Mauritania from violence, exploitation and disease. In 2016, Kantar raised over $348,646 for Unicef, of which $42,000 was for emergency donations following Hurricane Matthew and the Ecuador earthquake.

Finding Common Ground for the Global Goals

The goal of Common Ground – a collaboration between the six largest advertising and marketing groups – is to harness the power of communication to help tackle global sustainability challenges.

Launched in June 2016 at the Cannes Lions Festival, with Ban Ki-moon, then UN Secretary-General, this new partnership in support of the UN Global Goals, sees the six companies set aside competitive differences to advance the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Each company has selected one of the Global Goals as their initial priority. WPP has chosen gender equality and has teamed up with UN Women. Gender equality is important in its own right and has knock-on benefits for tackling poverty and improving education and economic growth. Havas is focusing on climate change, IPG on safe water, Publicis on food, Dentsu on health and Omnicom on education.

Many WPP companies are involved in Common Ground, providing pro bono communications services on a wide range of projects. Some projects, like #techmums, featured below, are concerned with empowering women through access to technology. Other projects are aimed at tackling stereotypes in the media and online, connecting women with smartphone technology in Uganda, making public environments safer and preventing violence against women.

The six groups will report on their progress across the Common Ground projects at the Cannes Lions Festival 2017. Some of the initial projects involving WPP companies include:

Opening doors with #techmums

Since 2012, the UK charity #techmums has been offering a five-week course free of charge to mothers with no prior IT experience. The course covers a range of subjects from online safety to basic coding, and helps open doors to jobs and further education. Now, with support from WPP and Capgemini, the charity will be expanding its offering making its training available for free, online. Three WPP companies, Addison Group, Cognifide and Hogarth are helping to develop a brand identity, a marketing strategy and strong content. Dr Sue Black OBE, who founded the charity, aims to create one million #techmums across the globe by 2020.

Rewriting the Code

#RewritingTheCode aims to raise awareness of the obvious – and less obvious – attitudes that prevent girls and women around the world from achieving their full potential. The campaign, launched by global children’s charity Theirworld on International Women’s Day, was created by WPP company The Partners, with support from sister companies Kantar Added Value, Kantar Millward Brown, MEC and VML.

#RewritingTheCode questions gender stereotypes and encourages the audience to consider the cultural codes that hide beneath the surface of our daily lives, shaping our experiences and holding back women and girls.

“The aim of the #RewritingTheCode campaign is to expose the hidden codes and values that shape the world around us, and ask questions such as: ‘Why don’t girls around the world have equal access to education? Why don’t women have equal pay in the workplace?’ We want a future where no girl is left out of the classroom, the boardroom or the conversation. Working with The Partners and its sister WPP agencies gives us the chance to get the campaign seen and heard by a far greater number of people and make an emotional connection that results in real actions that help children around the world.”

Sarah Brown
Founder and president, Theirworld

Pro bono work by WPP research, PR and media companies

Our research, PR and media companies around the world offer pro bono services to organisations working in areas such as health, education, human rights, community, the environment and the arts. The range of our activities is wide: see the selection of examples from 2016 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

WPP the parent company

Our social investment is largely determined at local level where our operating companies are well placed to identify where our contributions can play a significant role. But WPP, the parent company, also makes donations to 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.

WPP, the parent company, also provides pro bono support directly to a number of charities.

In 2016, these included:

  • Academy of St Martin in the Fields
  • Education and Employers Taskforce/Inspiring the Future
  • FIA Foundation/Road Safety
  • Heads Together
  • Icould
  • In Kind Direct
  • Invictus Games
  • JPO
  • Lifebox
  • Movement to Work
  • National Deaf Children’s Society
  • Pearson Degree
  • Place2Be
  • Prince’s Foundation
  • Rhodes Trust
  • Royal College of Music
  • St George’s Society (New York)
  • Teach First
  • United Westminster Foundation
  • VCM Foundation
  • WELL
  • RAF 100th Anniversary/Appeal 2018

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 and poverty is a major barrier to education for many children.

We established the WPP India CSR Foundation in 2015, 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”. The Foundation is investing £3 million to reach 10,000 children aged 11-18 over three years, with a focus on supporting education and vocational training.

So far, 8,000 children from vulnerable communities across Mumbai and Greater Delhi have been reached through a range of interventions. These include increasing access to technology in schools, e-learning programs, upgrading school sanitary facilities and investing in a vocational centre for teaching technical skills. During 2017, the Foundation aims to work with schools to introduce computers into classrooms and enable more people from WPP companies in India to get involved as volunteers.

A selection of organisations WPP companies supported in 2016:

  • Afrika Tikkun
  • Cape Town Center
  • Leukemia & Lymphoma Society
  • Smile Train
  • Unhomeless Kids
  • United Way Adopt
  • Habitat for Humanity
  • Do Good and Do More
  • The Tea Gardens
  • Off the Street Club
  • Daily Bread Food Bank
  • Everybody Wins!
  • Fund a Family
  • New York Cares
  • The Salvation Army
  • SOS Kinderdörfer
  • Garrahan Hospital
  • National Park Foundation
  • SAGE
  • Hole In The Wall Gang Camp
  • New Alternatives for Children
  • High Water Women
  • American Heart Association
  • Atlanta Humane Society
  • Can Jam-ThinkLA
  • Project Open Hand
  • The Wellspring Charity Foundation
  • LiftUp Atlanta
  • Meals on Wheels
  • Angel Tree Program, Covenant House: Helping Homeless Children & Youth
  • Portland Homeless Family Solutions
  • Oregon Food Bank
  • American Kidney Fund
  • Cardz for Kidz
  • RUOK?
  • Chicago Food Depository
  • Bowery Mission
  • Nelson Mandela Foundation
  • Unicef
  • Willing Hearts
  • The Lost Dogs’ Home Melbourne
  • Nourish Foodbank
  • Encore Community Services
  • Repack in Hunts Point
  • Holy Apostle Soup Kitchen
  • St. Clements Food Pantry
  • Community Kitchen of West Harlem
  • Gay Men’s Health Crisis
  • Little Sisters of the Assumption Family
  • Grand Central Neighborhood Social Services
  • American Red Cross
  • Project Sunshine
  • Sing for Hope
  • Career Gear
  • Big Brothers Big Sisters
  • Grand Street Settlement
  • Manhattan Child & Family Center
  • Harley House
  • Animal Rescue Coalition
  • Jewish Lifecare
  • Sean Casey Animal Rescue
  • Yorkshire Cancer Research
  • Denver Rescue Mission
  • Toys for Tots
  • Feeding Tampa Bay
  • Dubai Centre for Special Needs
  • Hands to Help Uganda
  • Knitting for Charity
  • Making a Difference Foundation
  • Sacred Heart Mission
  • Children’s Home Portland
  • Gift of Light
  • Shoebox Project, Mother’s Choice
  • Children in Need for Care
  • ELA Foundation
  • Build The Future Foundation
  • Comitato Letizia Verga
  • Red Door Shelter
  • Ottawa Community Housing
  • Dare to Care
  • Macmillan Cancer Support
  • Make-A-Wish Foundation
  • Haribon Foundation
  • United Way
  • New York Cares Coat Drive
  • Save the Children
  • Caritas Frankfurt
  • Hug a Baby
  • Rebuilding Together New York
  • Race Against Dementia
  • National Park Service
  • Hope Pick-Up
  • Ad Relief
  • Singapore Special Olympic Flag
  • New York Cares
  • Camp Ooch
  • Feed the Homeless
  • Food Centre Drive Bronx
  • MicroLoan Foundation
  • Community Kitchen
  • James J. Peters VA Medical Center
  • Gallop NYC-Therapeutic Horsemanship
  • Head Start
  • APEX for Youth
  • Blind and Visually Impaired
  • Hartley House
  • Senior Breakfasts
  • Animal Haven
  • Foodcycle
  • The Roby Charity
  • Operations Backpack
  • Futureversity
  • Scope
  • Publicidar Foundation
  • Anti-Cruelty Society of Chicago
  • Cancer Council
  • Samaritan’s Purse UK
  • CARE International
  • City Harvest
  • Clean City Together Toronto
  • Red Door Shelter
  • Caritas Frankfurt
  • American Cancer Society
  • Run For Charity
  • Haribon Foundation
  • Bethanien Kinderdorf
  • Acton Homeless Concern
  • Urban Roots
  • Project Onward
  • Bideawee
  • North Texas Food Bank
  • Muscular Dystrophy Association