Responsible business

700 colleagues. Two divisions. One planet.

We believe in big ideas and driving progress. That’s why we bring people together. Magic happens when diverse minds meet. And one project that requires as many brilliant minds as possible is taking care of the world we live in.

Our priority is to ensure that the impact of our business on our environment – and the communities we operate in – is a positive one. That’s why we’ve woven corporate responsibility into every element of our business, from branded events to the boardroom.

Sustainability

We're committed to ensuring the impact that our business operations have on the communities and environments we operate in is positive and considered. Learn more about the work we're doing to achieve this in our Sustainability Report and in the highlights below.

For the third year we have included ‘Task force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures’ (TCFD) aligned disclosures in our Annual Report. More information on our activities relating to Climate Change, carbon emissions and waste is included in the statement on pages 61-67 of our Annual Report.

Our climate change targets and an update on our progress to date can be found on pages 66-67 of our Annual Report. In 2023 we continued to focus on improving the methodology for measuring emissions, as well as increasing the scope and accuracy of emissions data that we are collecting. We consider this to be fundamental to our ability to develop a meaningful net-zero target, in line with UK Government regulations, as part of our Climate Transition Plan.

WARC partners with LIONS and the UK’s Advertising Association to create the WARC Sustainability Hub. The Sustainability Hub helps marketers understand and solve the challenges around sustainability, including net zero. It features resources from Ad Net Zero, a UK industry-wide initiative led by the Advertising Association, the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising and the Incorporated Society of British Advertisers, with the goal of reducing the marketing industry’s carbon impact.

We have now developed the Ascential Events Sustainability Standards. The standards are a roadmap for significantly reducing the carbon emissions and waste generated at our events year-on-year. You can read more about the actions we took in 2023 to make our events the most sustainable yet on pages 59-60 of our Annual Report.

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.

In 2020 we launched a company-wide Diversity and Inclusion vision.

Diversity is core to Ascential. 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 attracting, retaining, developing and engaging 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.
  • Philip Thomas is the Executive Director with responsibility to the Board for Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) matters, while Nancy Parks, Chief People Officer, is our Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) sponsor at Executive level.
  • We now have several growing Employee Resource Networks across Ascential: Able to Thrive, Ascential Pride, Black in Business and Empower: Ascential Women’s Network. Each network has been formalised with their own governance structure and Executive Sponsor.
  • 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 first Diversity and Inclusion Report, which you can read here.
  • We have subsequently published two annual Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Reports which set out the priorities and actions for the year as we work towards our 2030 commitments. You can read the 2022 report here and the 2023 report here
  • We voluntarily publish our Gender Pay Gap report, sharing data from the past two years and an action plan of how we're closing the gap. You can read the 2023 report here, and the 2022 report here.
  • In 2023, we maintained a leading position in the FTSE Women Leaders Review, addressing gender equality on Boards. We also continued to report against the Bloomberg Gender Equality Index KPIs, which can be viewed here.

Our brands have tailored their Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) support to what’s right for their teams and their customers, enabling local activity that makes a tangible difference. These activities have been tailored to be culturally- and industry-specific. They include the following:

  • Money20/20’s ‘Do Better’ pledge to diversify their industry. Find out more here.
  • At the Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity in June 2023, DEI remained a core content pillar, ensuring it was a key theme running throughout the event. You can read more about inclusivity at the festival here
  • WARC continues to deliver the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion hub which you can view here
  • Since our first Inclusive Representation Content Audit in 2021, our Content and Marketing teams have implemented action plans to ensure their content represents the diversity of the communities we serve. Through the audits we assess the perceived gender and race and ethnicity of all quoted individuals, contributors and imagery used. You can read more on page 72 of our Annual Report.

Supporting our charity partners

In 2023, we maintained our partnership with The Prince’s Trust for the eleventh year running. This year's Million Makers fundraising team raised over £378,000, winning the competition taking our total amount raised over the 11 years to over £2.5 million. 

Our brands also developed charitable partnerships at a local level that aligned with their brand values and colleague interests. This saw a wide range of organisations being supported in several ways, from charitable donations, to volunteering and skills sharing.

We support The Media Trust, whose mission is to help underrepresented talent enter the media and creative industries. Philip Thomas is the Chair of The Media Trust Trustees.

Lions has continued to donate all profits from the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) Lion to a range of charities or Not-for-Profit organisations who had won an SDG Lion. The Sustainable Development Goals Lion celebrates creative problem solving, solutions or other initiatives that harness creativity and seek to positively impact the world. Entrants have to demonstrate how they have advanced or contributed to the SDG 2030 goals. 

In 2023, the SDG Lion raised over €267,000, in addition to the €73,000 also raised by the Glass Lion which goes to charities supporting gender equality. The total raised by both Lion awards since 2015 is now over €2 million.

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. 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 them against and prohibit loss and unauthorised use, disclosure, alteration or access. Our intellectual property and confidential information are 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.

 

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.

 

Anti-corruption

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 2023.

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 our Streamlined Energy and Carbon Reporting (SECR) disclosure on page 69 of our latest Annual Report.