Responsible Business

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 £1,000,000 for the charity in the past three 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. The 2018 winner, Jaidah Thomas received three months full paid work experience with Cannes Lions, including two weeks on site at the festival in Cannes in June 2018. Learn more about Jaidah’s story and the impact of The Prince’s Trust on her journey, here and via the video above.


In 2019, our Million Makers fundraising team Fortitude raised £389,000 in 6 months - a record breaking amount.

But our support for The Prince's Trust wasn’t limited to just fundraising. In addition we had:

  • Seven Ascential Executives travelled to the UK regions from Glasgow to Belfast to join the judging committees for the 2019 Educational Achiever of the Year, also returning to attend the Regional Awards Ceremony for the successful Nominees.
  • Support for young young entrepreneurial members of The Prince's Trust giving business and mentoring opportunities to develop their business.
  • Involvement in the “Get Hired” programme and “Get Started” programmes, giving >5 opportunities to young people from these programmes.
  • Our CSR Ambassador, Vicky Ogden, won the Outstanding Individual Award at the Trust’s Partnership Awards. Ascential was also nominated for All Round Hero for the company under 5,000 employees from The Partnership Awards.
  • Support for The EXPLORE programme, which offers group activities and one-to-one support to develop skills and confidence. Duncan Painter, our CEO, Senior Exec members Natasha Christie-Miller and Sean Harley along with CSR Ambassador Vicky Ogden all visited the centre with Ascential’s video team filming to encourage awareness.
  • In 2019 we participated again in The Prince’s Trust Million Makers competition. This is a Dragons’ Den-style fundraising challenge which sees teams of employees from companies across the UK competing to raise £10,000 or more over a period of six months. Team Fortitude, our 2019 Million Makers team, raised £389,000 in six months.
  • Ascential is a supporter of The Prince's Trust LGBTQI+ group and also the BAME project. Diversity and Inclusion discussions are all a part of our involvement.

MediaLink raised over $240,000 in 2019, supporting a wide variety of charitable causes both inside and outside of the marketing industry. The range of emphasis spans social movements supporting disenfranchised groups, child advocacy, cures for chronic diseases and patronage of the arts. MediaLink’s focus remains on causes important to the marketing industry at large as well as those important to our clients and staff.

Every year, selection is based on historical precedent as well as a handful of new charities focused on timely issues that emerge as vital to the health of the marketing industry, such as equality in the workforce.

Within the marketing industry, MediaLink executives dedicate service in the form of board membership to several key not-for-profit industry organisations like the Advertising Council, Inc. and the Paley Center for Media, in addition to providing charitable donations. The Advertising Council, Inc. in particular is allocated a high annual budget for its focus on public service communications that raise awareness and inspire action on numerous causes.

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. It 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.

Colleagues from the WGSN Content, Mindset, Sales and Product teams w​ork ​with the charity to deliver presentation skills to Ambassadors recruited from universities across the UK. ​Thanks to our crack team of seasoned public speakers​ ​from across WGSN,​ the​ college-aged young people​, having completed the training,​ felt ​more ​comfortable to share their own stories than ever before.

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.

The dedication of our people is at the heart of Groundsure’s success. Our success in the market is mirrored by support for various charities and organisations making a positive social impact.

Groundsure continue to develop their “HOT Mapping” around the world. HOT mapping is collaboration mapping for humanitarian aid across the world - reaching those in need through creating maps. Various NGOs and charities across the world will request mapping and set up projects on the HOT website - these can range from mapping individual properties to residential areas, as well as mapping roads and paths - all from aerial imagery. This mapping is then used to help improve access to healthcare, to estimate populations for outbreaks and emergencies following medical or natural disasters, as well as helping preparedness for future possible events. Groundsure ran eight sessions in 2019, helping projects from mapping buildings in Uganda to help fight the spread of Ebola still happening in parts of Uganda and DRC, to mapping buildings and roads in Papua New Guinea.

Code Bar is a monthly event held in Brighton to provide free code training to young people. The workshop aims to teach programming in a safe and supportive environment, allowing experienced practitioners to share their knowledge and coach our students. In 2019 35 students came to the Groundsure office and improved their coding skills with members of the Tech team.

Ascential Pride, our first LGBTQ+ network, was also founded by the Groundsure team.

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 have included our Hong Kong office volunteering on a Nature Reserve WWF Wetlands, and the Glenigan team in Bournemouth have supported local food banks.

Staff from Ascential, DeHavilland, and WGSN also took part in the “Let’s Get Cooking” initiative for the Bloomsbury Community Centre, which provides a hot three course lunch for elderly and homeless people. And our UK-based people also supported The Harington Scheme, a garden centre for young people with learning difficulties, with two groups from across the business working together weeding, clearing, pruning and planting for a full day.


Ascential is passionate about promoting equality across our industry and beyond. Learn more about our initiatives driving diversity and equality below.

See It Be It, the Cannes Lions initiative that provides executive training, mentoring and exclusive networking opportunities for mid-level creative women from across the world, ran successfully again in 2019. The curated programme, launched in 2014, focuses on supporting future female creative leaders with the tools and support network they need to succeed and thrive. In 2019, See It Be It once again partnered with Spotify, and this brand partnership led to a number of curated events globally. See It Be It has now reached 4,000 women globally through its events. In a commitment to improving diversity and gender balance in the jury rooms, 48% of jury members were female in 2019, up from 46% in 2018, 43% in 2017 and 40% in 2016.

Now in its second year, the Money20/20 Rise Up programme advocates for gender equality in the financial services and FinTech industry. The programme is now global, launching for the first time in both Asia and Europe in 2019, and returning for a second year in the USA. During each programme, a cohort of 35 women are chosen to take part in an invitation-only curated agenda, designed to give them actionable insights and skills through bespoke content sessions, one-to-one mentoring and networking opportunities with respected industry leaders. In 2019 Rise Up has inspired women from 51 countries, across six continents, to apply to be a part of the programme. In 2019, Rise Up took it one step further and launched the ‘Breaking the 19’ campaign, challenging organisations and their leadership to reduce the 19% pay gap in the US.

2019 saw Retail Week’s Be Inspired programme cement its reputation as one of the most influential and impactful diversity initiatives in the UK. The programme offers women in retail access to senior female leaders in the industry, to address the gender inequality at boardroom level.

2019’s attendance increased by 55%, with speakers including the President of TJX Europe and former Rugby World Cup Champion Maggi Alphonsi, delivering an exceptional NPS score of 75. 2019 also saw the launch of Be Inspired Stories, a monthly podcast amplifying the initiative’s message to a global audience.


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.

Our Events Operations team launched an internal Sustainability Committee in 2018, to focus efforts and share ideas to make our events as green as possible. We are working more closely than ever with event production companies and venues, checking their recycling and sustainability policies and asking for reports and existing policies. We are continually striving to create greener and more sustainability-conscious events.

In 2019 we did the most we’ve ever done towards this goal. Money20/20 Europe donated leftover catering to the Salvation Army and a soup kitchen, and provided a service where stand holders can donate or recycle anything from their stand post-show.

At Cannes Lions reducing waste and improving environmental credentials was paramount to the 2019 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 Festival worked closely with the City of Cannes to ensure that the award-winning initiatives implemented throughout the municipality were incorporated into Festival activities.

Established in 2017 and continuously evolving, WGSN’s Sustainability Board is a dedicated steering group of in-house, cross-industry, sustainability ambassadors. They ensure that our research and reporting enable clients to improve their environmental contribution and shift to circular design within the industries we service.

The 20 members include representatives across WGSN; Fashion, Insight, Lifestyle and Interiors, Food and Drink, Beauty, Mindset (consultancy), Marketing, Client Services, Data and Coloro, with a full spectrum of editorial seniority across colour, materials, interiors, retail, fashion, consumer insights, food and drink, marketing, automotive, electronics and beauty.

The group meets on a monthly basis to create internal learning sessions and formulate editorial strategy, working on key initiatives throughout the year to assess areas for improvement.

The aim is simple; we use our position as the industry’s leading trend forecaster to help our clients champion sustainability, highlighting the opportunities and solutions available, sharing insight and data to ensure they adopt, adapt and innovate in a sustainable way. Equipping them with the tools to navigate the many challenges presented by this daunting evolution of all our industries.

Sustainability remains a key focus for consumers and brands, despite the turbulence caused by Covid-19. Indeed, as the climate crisis becomes an emergency, it’s vital that the industries we serve continue to invest and innovate in this area.

WGSN is investing and innovating, our working group will activate key initiatives through 2020 and 2021. These include: an audit of our standards across all verticals, the identification of new content opportunities and information gaps, a Sustainability Bulletin revamp (evolving a much-valued monthly report to ensure information is accessible and actionable for all industries we serve), an internal- and external-facing glossary of key terms to provide a key educational reference for our clients, new hero reports that features in-depth analysis on how our clients can tackle and prioritise sustainability, promoting a more holistic approach to product development, retail and consumption – particularly in the wake of the Coronavirus pandemic and its long-term fiscal impact.

Our environmental footprint significantly decreased in 2018 due to the sale of our Exhibitions business. As a data-led information business, we now have a reduced direct environmental impact. We work hard to ensure that our existing events have as low an environmental impact as they can and that we use the event platforms we create to engage the wider industry on sustainability issues. You can read more about our approach on page 51 of our annual report.

In our office buildings Ascential works with our landlords to ensure installation of energy efficient low-temperature hot water, water-efficient low-flush toilets, low-energy lighting and low-power technology across all its offices. We recycle in all of our offices, and promote recycling.

We continue to focus on digital content, greatly reducing our paper consumption. Even though print requirements for the business have further declined, we optimise paper efficiency through use of best-in-class printing equipment and technology.

As a global business, there is a need for our people to travel to our various global offices. However, we do encourage all our people to work collaboratively using the technology available, reducing the need to fly. We use a range of online communication tools, to better support our people as they collaborate across the globe. Full details of our direct and indirect greenhouse gas emissions are set out in the Directors’ Report on page 53 of our Annual Report.


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.


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.

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 53.