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Sir James feels passionately that business, done well, is a force for good in society. Throughout his career, he has seen that responsible business creates jobs, supports individuals’ career development, invests in the community, generates tax revenue, and adds social value. This commitment to the alignment of business and social benefit is integrated into the operations of the Wates Group, for which James has worked since 1983. He has been Chairman since 2013 and he is currently Chairman of the Nominations Committee. Outside of the Wates Group, he is Chairman of the Institute for Family Business. In January 2018 he was appointed by the Government to be Chairman of the coalition group developing corporate governance principles for large private companies (the so-called ‘Wates Principles’). He has worked in construction all his life and seeks to drive change in the sector to ensure that it meets the UK’s needs for a high quality infrastructure and buildings in which people live, learn, work and enjoy life. Within the sector, he has held numerous positions through which he has championed change, including Chairman of the CBI Construction Council, Chairman of the Construction Industry Training Board, Chairman of the Building Research Establishment (BRE) Trust, and Co-chair of the trade association Build UK. To help ensure that the UK punches its weight internationally, he served as Co-chair of the government-sponsored Infrastructure Exports: UK. In 2012 he was awarded the CBE and in 2019 was knighted for services to business and to charity.
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