WPP makes $30m three-year anti-racism pledge

Holding group to make donations, offer free services and shore up own diversity metrics.

WPP: pledges to track progression of under-represented groups and publish racial-diversity data
WPP: pledges to track progression of under-represented groups and publish racial-diversity data

WPP will invest $30m over three years to combat racism, the holding group has announced. This amount will be used to fund inclusion programmes within the company and to support external organisations in this growing battle.

The business said it would make donations, offer services pro bono and work with media partners to support charities and other organisations committed to fighting racism, developing "minority" talent and addressing issues that affect people of colour. WPP will also match employee donations to charities selected in consultation with its WPP Roots steering committee up to $1,000 per person to a total of $1m.

"WPP must support and elevate black employees, and those from other under-represented groups, not as a diversity and inclusion initiative but as a business and moral imperative," chief executive Mark Read stated in a release. "Over the last three weeks, I have heard an outpouring of pain, anger and frustration from black colleagues, along with clear demands for change. This is the moment to embrace that change and to use our creativity, our scale and our influence to make a difference in the fight against racism."

The announcements are part of WPP’s set of commitments and actions to help combat racial injustice and support black and minority-ethnic talent. The group stated that it will take "decisive action" on each of the 12 points in the "Call for change" open letter to the industry from more than 1,200 black advertising professionals. Internally, WPP says it will review its hiring, retention, promotion and development practices, and publish racial-diversity data.

Already, WPP agencies have taken or are in the process of taking many of the actions, the network contended, but it will implement all 12 throughout WPP on an accelerated timescale.

WPP, which admits it has work to do on racial diversity, says this new push includes setting targets, tracking the progression of under-represented groups and publishing racial-diversity data. It will also undertake a comprehensive review of its policies, processes and practices so that they elevate talent, the group noted.

As part of this push, WPP will engage with clients, partners, peers, industry bodies, event organisers and suppliers to ensure minority-ethnic talent is fairly represented not only at work but in the industry and wider networks. The group will, for instance, formally commit to participate only in events or panels where people of colour are represented, in line with the pledge Read signed some time ago not to participate in male-only panels. The network will also identify and put forward people of colour as speakers at events to proactively raise their visibility and it will review supplier diversity to give greater support to minority-owned businesses.

To ensure these targets are met, WPP’s new Global Inclusion Council will work with Read and the executive committee. A taskforce dedicated to advancing the opportunities and interests of black colleagues specifically will advise this committee. WPP's statement noted that leaders of the group's global agency networks have signed these commitments and will be held accountable for delivering them within their businesses.

A version of this story first appeared on Campaign Asia-Pacific

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