James Wates, chairman of his family’s construction business, has been tasked with drawing up the UK’s first-ever set of guiding principles for large private companies. He will work with the Financial Reporting Council, the Institute of Directors, the Trades Union Congress and others.
How employees are treated is a particular focus of the group that Mr Wates will head.
Business secretary Greg Clark said: "The UK is rightly recognised as having a world-leading business environment and responsible business practices – a key part of our Industrial Strategy. But concerns that some companies are stepping out of line by ignoring employees’ concerns need to be addressed."
In accepting the assignment, Mr Wates said: “I passionately believe that good business, well done, can be a force for good in society, and I believe that the work of this group will enable even more large privately owned businesses to adhere to high standards of social responsibility.”
He continued: “Although the failures of a few companies to behave responsibly will always grab the media headlines, we shouldn’t let these ‘bad apples’ lead us towards imposing restrictions that harm the entire ‘tree’ of good business. As such, I am pleased to work with the government to lead with positive messages – not just developing these voluntary standards but more broadly promoting the value that businesses deliver to society in the form of employment, training and development, tax revenue, and the inherent social value of the products and services provided.”
Wates Group is a major donor of the Conservative Party, giving it £50,000 in February 2017.
James Wates is chairman of Tomorrow’s Company, a “think tank that exists to inspire and enable business to be a force for good”. He is also chairman of the Prince’s Trust Corporate Advisory Group.