Responsible business

We are focused on supporting our community and having a positive impact on our people, and the customers we serve.

We are focused on supporting our community and having a positive impact on our people, and the customers we serve.

Ascential is passionate about education and helping young people to get a better start in life. That’s why we’re a Gold Patron of The Prince’s Trust, having raised over £1,600,000 for the charity in the past eight years.

We have an active and impactful relationship with The Prince’s Trust – along with sponsoring the UK and Ireland Million Makers Challenge and significant fundraising support, we also sponsor the Educational Achiever of the Year Award on an annual basis.

In the video above you can find out about our 2018 winner. Jaidah Thomas received three months full paid work experience with LIONS, including two weeks on site at the Cannes Lions festival in June 2018. Watch the video to learn more about Jaidah’s story, and the impact of The Prince’s Trust on her journey.

Supporting our charity partners

In 2020, our Million Makers fundraising group Team Ascend raised £212,000 entirely virtually, and subsequently came second in The Prince’s Trust Million Makers competition. Our charitable support was not limited to fundraising, in addition we supported the following activities:

  • Our partnership with the Million Makers programme is developing again in early 2021, as we support the Trust to attain Continuous Professional Development (CDP) accreditation for the programme. This will give Million Makers participants the opportunity to attend a series of Skills Sessions and TED style seminars with top business leaders leading to a professional accreditation at the end of the programme.
  • Goals 4 Girls is an award-winning development programme, raising the aspirations of young women and girls, through football and education. Founded by Francesca Brown through the support of The Prince’s Trust we have continued to partner with both Francesca and Goals4Girls to ensure the work we started through The Prince’s Trust becomes sustainable long term.
  • In 2020 Goals 4 Girls provided a powerful online Diversity and Inclusion workshop for our colleagues, with young people speakers from their programmes. The event was donated by Goals 4 Girls, and colleagues donated to attend, raising over £1600 for The Prince’s Trust.

  • Each year, Flywheel matches their colleagues, and their under 18 children’s charitable giving up to $1,000 per person.
  • In 2020, this resulted in Flywheel matching donations of $16,522.
  • Flywheel also donated another $50,000 directly to charity. $20,000 of this amount went to the NAACP Baltimore Chapter, to buy masks for Black Lives Matter supporters.

WGSN ​is a proud partner of LGBT+ charity Just Like Us. The charity is focused on supporting young LGBT+ people, ensuring that they hear powerful, positive messages about being LGBT+, from other LGBT+ young people. The charity is building a national network of university student volunteers, giving them the skills they need to communicate with impact, and sending them into secondary schools to share their stories, challenge stereotypes, and explain why LGBT+ equality is important.

Support for Just Like Us goes beyond volunteering WGSN staff to support their Ambassador programmes. Through WGSN’s industry contacts, the charity ​have ​gained access to an ASOS supplier, who kindly took on the printing of a t-shirt order, offering Just Like Us a significant cost saving on its previous order. WGSN also secured the services of high-profile Instagrammer and Fendi collaborator Reilly, who agreed to allow Just Like Us to use one of his artworks for printing on t-shirts.

We encourage all our people to take one day per year to volunteer with a charity of their choice. Over the past two years, examples included our Hong Kong office volunteering on a Nature Reserve WWF Wetlands, and the Glenigan team in Bournemouth supporting local food banks.

With our colleagues around the world largely in lockdown due to the global pandemic, and facing considerable at home pressures, we paused our company-wide volunteering opportunities. However colleagues could still choose to use their day with charities of their choice, and many took up this offer remotely.

In 2021, we will again grow our own global volunteering opportunities, encouraging our people to support initiatives that closely align to our signature activity.

Promoting equality

Ascential is passionate about promoting equality across our industry and beyond. Learn more about the work we’re doing to drive diversity and equality below.

New in 2020 we launched a company wide Diversity and Inclusion vision.

For Ascential, diversity is core to us. Our value as an employer and to our customers is greater when we draw on the full range of our collective perspectives and experiences.

We continue to be committed to attract, retain, develop and engage a diverse workforce, and we will work constantly to ensure that everyone at Ascential feels comfortable to be themselves. This is the right thing to do to ensure a sustainable future for our organisation, and to make a positive impact for our people, customers, and society.

Our work in this area is supported by three headline commitments:

  • To employees: We will co-create an inclusive culture with equitable systems throughout our workforce, so that people are comfortable in bringing their authentic selves to Ascential, to thrive, and progress their career.
  • To customers: We will deliver the ideas, perspectives and cultural richness that our customers – and their customers – need to future-proof their products and services.
  • To society: We will play our part in imagining and developing a brighter, more equal society, starting with our own company and the industries we work in. We will report openly and regularly on our progress to enable others to learn from us and hold us to account.

  • In 2020, we established our Diversity & Inclusion Governance up to Board level, from our Diversity and Inclusion Committee and Steering Group, through to appointing our Board level sponsor, Paul Harrison, Ascential's Chief Operating Officer.
  • We have three growing Employee Resource Networks: Ascential Pride, Women in Digital Commerce, and Black in Business. All have been formalised with their own governance structures and Executive Sponsors.
  • In August 2020, we ran our first Diversity Data Survey which was completed by 83% of our colleagues.
  • In January 2021, we published the results of that survey alongside our new Diversity and Inclusion vision and commitments in our 2021 Diversity and Inclusion Report, which you can read here.
  • In April 2022, we published our latest Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Report. The report sets out our priorities and the actions we took in 2021 as we work towards our 2030 commitments. You can read it here.
  • In June 2022, we voluntarily published our Gender Pay Gap report, with data from the past two years and an action plan of how we're closing the gap. You can read it here.

Our Business Units have tailored their Diversity and Inclusion support to what’s right for their teams and their customers, enabling local activity that makes a tangible difference. These activities have been culturally and industry specific. They include:

  • WGSN’s Future Makers programme, an external mentoring programme for diverse talent.
  • LIONS' commitment to share powerful and topical Black Lives Matter and Diversity content from LIONS Live early in the summer of 2020.
  • Retail Week’s commitment to diversifying their speaker community, moving from 8% representation from people of colour to 25%.
  • WARC and LIONS, along with the Association of National Advertisers Educational Foundation (AEF) and the 4A’s Foundation, teamed up to bring industry knowledge to HBCUs (Historically Black Colleges and Universities) by offering access to WARC and LIONS' The Work to students for free. This equates to a US$1 million annual commitment, no strings attached and in perpetuity.
  • Money 2020’s ‘Do Better’ pledge to diversify their industry. Find out more here.


We’re committed to making better choices that will help us contribute to a greener world. Learn more about the changes we’re making below.

Cannes Lions operates two awards as part of Lions for Good: The Sustainable Development Goals Lions, and Glass: The Lion for Change. Cannes Lions actively supports the UN Sustainable Development Goals through the Sustainable Development Goals Lions. In 2019, the Grand Prix was won by The Lion’s Share Fund, and proceeds of €279,000 from the Award have been distributed to support the Fund’s wildlife conservation and animal welfare programmes. Glass: The Lion for Change is the award that celebrates culture-shifting creativity.

Launched at the 2019 Cannes Lions Festival, Goal’s House, a partnership with Deloitte Digital and SAP, brought industry leaders together to engage in high-level discussions. Conversations focused on scaling impact to meet the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals, helping to end poverty, protect the planet, fight diseases, and ensure prosperity for all by 2030. The Change for Good Hackathon was a partnership between Cannes Lions, Huge and Amazon that teamed up with Earth Day Network and the Earth Challenge 2020 global citizen science initiative. At the 2019 Festival, they invited agencies to design technological solutions that can help citizens solve key environmental challenges facing humanity in the 21st century.

In 2019, Cannes Lions and Money20/20 operated our most sustainably conscious events to date. Working closely with event production companies and venues, checking their recycling and sustainability policies and asking for reports and existing policies.

At Cannes Lions 2019, reducing waste and improving environmental credentials was paramount to the event: every delegate was offered a reusable water bottle and water bottle refill stations were placed throughout the venue; lanyards and badge wallets were made from recycled plastics, and all event bags were biodegradable, made in 100% carbon neutral factories.

The high ambitions for improving on this in 2020 have been postponed to 2021, when our events will take place again in person.

WGSN’s Sustainability Board, established in 2017, continues to be a thought leader for our business.

The Sustainability Board is a dedicated steering group of in-house, cross-industry, sustainability ambassadors. They ensure that WGSN’s research and reporting enables clients to improve their environmental contribution and shift to circular design within the industries they service.

In 2020, the Sustainability Board aligned with UN Sustainability Goal 12, ‘Responsible Consumption and Production’. By encouraging a circular design system with their clients, they are embedding sustainability principles at all stages of product design from sourcing and manufacture through to purchase and post purchase.

In 2020, WGSN performed a thorough audit across all content with a view to broadening, deepening and refining their sustainability coverage. Their cross-vertical monthly Sustainability Bulletin has continued to be one of WGSN’s most popular reports.

In 2021, the WGSN Sustainability Board will be launching a range of initiatives that will continue to upskill our team; from educational networking events and workshops, to a comprehensive sustainability glossary to enhance the depth of our reporting, as well as cross-industry reports to inspire sector transformation. It is our goal to become the global go-to forecasting authority on sustainability strategy for all of the industries we serve.

In 2020 we identified the support structures we need in place in order to effectively manage our impact on the environment. We therefore designed, and gained Board approval for, a new governance structure for this area of work.

The purpose of establishing this structure is: to enable us to implement identified activities; effectively manage our impact on the environment and the impact that climate change may have on our business; and to keep across changes in investor and client demands in order to respond to those requests and manage future requirements.

In addition to establishing the working governance structures, we have also sought to understand our existing position on environmental management. We have completed the Carbon Disclosure Project assessment for the first time, which marks the beginning of more visible reporting in this area and has helped us to understand areas which need improvement.

We have completed our Streamlined Energy and Carbon Reporting (SECR) which can be viewed on page 73 of our 2020 Annual Report.

Operating responsibly

Our suppliers, partners and other third parties involved in the provision of goods or services are important to us. They underpin our ability to serve our customers and while delivering our valued and trusted products it is important to us that we and our suppliers do business responsibly, ethically and lawfully.

Third party code of conduct

We have implemented a Third Party Code of Conduct which outlines our ethical approach to doing business and explains the standards we strive to ensure that all our suppliers should abide by, and we also expect our suppliers’ suppliers to adhere to it. The main principles of this Code are:

There is no forced, involuntary or debt bonded labour in any form including slavery or trafficking of persons. There are no workers under the age of 15, or where it is higher, the mandatory school leaving age in the local country. The use of legitimate workplace apprenticeship programmes, which comply with all laws and regulations, is supported.

Workers, without distinction, have the right to associate freely, join or not join labour unions, seek representation and join workers’ councils as well as the right of collective bargaining in accordance with local laws.

There is equality of opportunity and treatment regardless of physical attributes or condition (including pregnancy), gender, religion (or absence of such beliefs), political opinion, nationality, sexual orientation, age or ethnic background. Equal pay for work of equal value is supported. Discrimination or intimidation towards and between employees is opposed, including all forms or threats of physical and psychological abuse.

There is no tolerance of any form of corruption, bribery, fraud, tax evasion, extortion or embezzlement and business is conducted in a manner that avoids conflicts of interest.

Fair business, advertising and competition is supported.

There is respect for and protection of intellectual property rights, data and confidential information to safeguard it against and prohibit loss and unauthorised use, disclosure, alteration or access. Our intellectual property and confidential information is handled and data processed on our behalf only for the purposes for which it was made available, received or collected in accordance with the reasonable directions provided by us.

Any disruptions of business are prepared for (including but not limited to natural disasters, terrorism or cyber attacks). Risks are frequently assessed and appropriate controls put in place and regularly tested.

All required quality, health, safety and environment related permits, licences and registrations are obtained, maintained and kept up-to-date and their operational and reporting requirements are followed. Proper provision is made for the health, safety and welfare of employees, visitors, contractors, the community and the environment. Health, safety and environmental risks are regularly assessed and appropriate controls are put in place bearing in mind the prevailing knowledge of the industry and of any specific hazards.

We require adherence to all applicable environmental laws and regulations, to appropriately mitigate climate change risk. We assess environmental impact in our supply chain with respect to any or all of the following: carbon emissions, energy consumption, travel, water consumption, single use plastics, paper usage and operational waste.  Our expectation is that our suppliers and supply chain cooperate and contribute to reducing the environmental impact of their products and services.


The Ascential Code

The Ascential Code is the overview of our key compliance commitments, which sets out our expectations in terms of ethical and lawful conduct for our people, and our external partners. It serves as an essential guide, setting out our standards and expectations as a business, and signposting the people who are available to help should questions arise.

You can view The Ascential Code here: English | Simplified Chinese | Brazilian Portuguese


Modern Slavery

Ascential recognises that slavery, forced labour and human trafficking (modern slavery) is a global issue. One that Ascential understands affects innocent lives. Ascential has a zero tolerance approach to modern slavery of any kind and has taken steps to eliminate it from its supply chain. Through this work, we have found support from customers, suppliers and Ascential employees to this zero tolerance approach. The Ascential community has no tolerance for modern slavery and has pledged to raise awareness and take steps to source suppliers responsibly.

You can view our full Modern Slavery statement here.



We have a formal anti-corruption policy which is communicated to all employees that prohibits offering, promising or giving a bribe; requesting, agreeing to receive, or accepting a bribe; and bribing a foreign public official to obtain or retain business or a business-related advantage.

The policy includes details of how employees can report any suspected violations of the policy confidentially to the Ethics Helpline, Protect, and assurances that concerns raised in good faith will not be criticised or penalised in any way. The Board has appointed the Audit Committee to review the implementation of this policy and the Audit Committee periodically monitors and audits compliance.

There were no reported breaches of the Bribery Act during 2020.

We also require our suppliers to adopt a zero tolerance approach to bribery and corruption through our Third Party Code of Conduct.


Whistleblowing policy

We have a formal whistleblowing policy which encourages all staff to report suspected wrongdoing, in the knowledge that their concerns will be taken seriously and investigated appropriately, and that their confidentiality will be respected. Wrongdoing includes failure to comply with legal obligations or regulations, including bribery and corruption. The policy also aims to reassure staff that they should be able to raise genuine concerns without fear of reprisals, even if they turn out to be mistaken. We provide details of a confidential helpline operated by an independent third party, as well as contact details for the Independent Chairman of the Audit Committee within the policy.


Greenhouse gas emissions

Full details of our direct and indirect greenhouse gas emissions are set out in the Directors’ Report on page 123.