Wates Group is a leading, family-owned construction, development and property services company. It employs around 4,000 people and works with over 10,000 supply chain operatives and partners to successfully deliver its projects. Committed to the long-term future of the built environment and to delivering social value for the communities in which it works, Wates’ Guiding Framework sets out its ambitions to be the most sustainable, trusted and progressive business in its sector, underpinning its shareholders’ belief that business, done well, can be a force for good.
Social Value is not a new concept at Wates Group. When Edward Wates founded the company in 1897, the culture of looking after our people and giving back to society was established and is upheld today by the current, fourth generation family shareholders. The motivation to create a positive legacy in the communities where we live and work is shared by leadership and employees alike, with a number of initiatives to engage colleagues from site visits and trading with social enterprises to mentoring and volunteering.
Social value at Wates is characterised by a focus on creating sustainable communities through employment and skills, and advocacy of trade with the social enterprise sector. Specific examples include:
Supporting social enterprises
In 2015, we were the first within our industry to set a long-term goal to embed social enterprises (SEs) within our supply chain, to raise the profile of their impact and to spend at least £20m with SEs by 2020. To do this we targeted all our projects to trade with at least one social enterprise and established a network of about 50 SE champions across the business. We achieved the £20m spend goal by November 2019.
In 2006, Wates established Building Futures, a pre-employment programme to support unemployed adults to gain a qualification and employability support. Over 1,800 people have been supported to date. Colleagues are involved through hosting site visits and delivering presentations.
Following internal presentations to raise awareness about economic inequality and in-work poverty in 2019, Wates FM became the first business in the Wates Group to become certified as a Recognised Service Provider with the Living Wage Foundation as part of a wider rollout programme.
Build Yourself, our education programme, engages primarily with young people to promote social mobility. It provided employability support to over 1400 students in 2019 and engages colleagues through mentoring, delivering workshops and hosting internships.
As part of an effort to tackle mental health issues, both within the construction industry and in society more generally, we have trained over 270 employees as Mental Health First Aiders.
Looking to extend our support for SEs, we instigated cross-sector working groups to promote SEs. In 2018 and 2019 we coordinated ‘Meet the Buyer events’ attended by nine main contractors and have established new trading relationships for SEs.
We use social value data from a number of sources alongside holding grass roots conversations with charities and community organisations to understand local needs and inform decision making about the best approaches to support the communities in which we work and beyond. Looking to the future, we remain committed to challenging inequality by tackling in-work poverty, to inspiring and educating young people and to scaling our support for the social enterprise sector.