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GSK health chief among business leaders on New Year Honours list

Saleha Riaz
·4-min read
Pauline Williams, head of global health at GlaxoSmithKline will be honoured with a CBE for services to medical research and development. Photo: GSK
Pauline Williams, head of global health at GlaxoSmithKline will be honoured with a CBE for services to medical research and development. Photo: GSK

Pauline Williams, head of global health at GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), was among leaders recognised in the government’s New Year Honours list for 2021.

Dave Lewis, the former chief executive of Tesco (TSCO.L) and Melanie Smith, CEO of supermarket chain Ocado Retail (OCDO.L) also made it to the list.

Williams will be honoured with a CBE for services to medical research and development. She has spent over 25 years in drug discovery and development with a focus on clinical pharmacology and translational medicine.

She also founded the GSK noncommunicable diseases open lab, which provides support to African researchers.

Williams has led GSK’s global health research and development since 2017, overseeing teams of scientists and physicians working on treatments for malaria, TB, and kinetoplastid diseases.

Meanwhile, Smith will receive a CBE for her services to retail and the food supply chain during the COVID-19 crisis.

Meanie Smith, CEO of Ocado Retail, will get a CBE. Photo: Ocado
Meanie Smith, CEO of Ocado Retail, will get a CBE. Photo: Ocado

And Lewis, who left Tesco in October 2020, is to be given a knighthood. He joined Tesco from Unilever in 2014 at the height of an accounting scandal that left the retailer with a more than £200m ($273m) blackhole on its books, and pushed it to a loss of over £6bn in 2015.

Lewis, who was nicknamed “Drastic Dave” at Unilever for his cuts, successfully steered the business out of trouble.

As well as rescuing Tesco from the brink, Lewis also successfully pushed Tesco into new growth markets with the £4bn acquisition of wholesaler Booker. That deal helped Tesco move into the hospitality and retail supply market, selling goods to pubs, corner ships, and hotels.

The New Year Honours 2021 lists marks “the achievements and service of extraordinary people across the United Kingdom,” the government said.

UK prime minister Boris Johnson added that in a year “when so many have made sacrifices to protect our NHS and save people’s lives, the outstanding efforts of those receiving honours today are a welcome reminder of the strength of human spirit, and of what can be achieved through courage and compassion.”

Of the 1,239 people who receive an award this year, 65% are people who have undertaken outstanding work in their communities either in a voluntary or paid capacity; women made up 49% of the list; and 14.2% of the successful candidates come from a BAME (Black, Asian and minority ethnic) background.

The list is the most ethnically diverse honours list yet, the government said.

“This Honours List highlights how Britain’s business sector has stepped up to deliver for the country during COVID-19. From small business owners diverting their resources or changing business models to support the response effort to supermarket workers making sure all their vulnerable customers were stocked up with essential items – this Honours List showcases 111 recipients (9%) being recognised for services to business and the economy,” the government’s statement added.

READ MORE: UK economy set for record growth in 2021 — but it won't feel like it

Leaders in the food and hospitality sector who were on the list include Kate Nicholls, CEO of trade association UKHospitality, and Christopher Tyas, chair of the Food Resilience Industry Forum. Both will receive OBEs.

Kate Nicholls, CEO, UKHospitality was on the New Year Honours list. Photo: UKHospitality
Kate Nicholls, CEO, UKHospitality was on the New Year Honours list. Photo: UKHospitality

Publican Caroline Halfhide, from Ash in Somerset will get an MBE for changing her pub into a village shop for residents to minimise the need for travel to nearby towns for food and essentials.

Meanwhile, Christopher Woolard, former interim chief executive of the Financial Conduct Authority, will receive a CBE for services to financial regulation and financial technology innovation.

Also on the list were Pietra Mello-Pittman and Ella Spira, founders of the dance and theatre production company Sisters Grimm. They will get an MBE, as will Daniel Leigh Brooks, CEO of Virtual Human Resources.

The co-founders of Sisters Grimm. Photo: Sisters Grimm
The co-founders of Sisters Grimm. Photo: Sisters Grimm

Those honoured this year represent a diverse range of businesses, from sourcing PPE for the pandemic, green energy, trade policy negotiations and to services exports in the creative industry such as cross-cultural theatre productions, noted the Department for International Trade.

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