Meet our colleagues recently recognised on the New Year Honour list

A huge congratulations to our colleagues who were recently recognised on the New Year Honours list.

This list recognises the achievements and service of extraordinary people across the United Kingdom and there’s not a better way to describe our colleagues.

Take a look at their stories below:

Dan Owens

Our Online Grocery Development Manager Dan has been recognised for the critical role he played in dramatically increasing the number of home delivery customers who we could serve, especially our vulnerable and shielding customers who were struggling to get essential supplies.

In the early days of the crisis, we saw a huge increase in the number of customers visiting our website with shoppers urgently wanting to secure home delivery slots, ramping up from five million hits to over 25 million in a matter of days! Our technology had never been tested to these levels before and this created huge levels of instability.

Dan worked non-stop, over evenings, weekends and across three times zones, working with Walmart teams around the world, to make sure our website could accommodate the increased traffic so that as many customers as possible could get their shopping. 


Paul Miller
Throughout the pandemic, the health and safety of our 140,000 colleagues and millions of customers has been our number one priority and Paul worked tirelessly to achieve this, culminating in his MBE award!


Paul quickly assessed more than 40 job roles from across our business, including stores, home offices, online grocery and optical, and created an extensive risk management programme for each as well as carefully reviewing around 50 chemicals, PPE and equipment in all parts of our business to make sure that they were safe for our colleagues and customers.

So that we could serve as many customers as possible in stores and online, Paul worked extensively with our suppliers to make sure the inspection programme was kept up to date and that all equipment and machinery was available for use during the pandemic, and most importantly safe.


On hearing of his MBE award Paul said: “I feel humbled and honoured to be receiving an MBE after such a tumultuous year for everyone in the country. It is a testament to the incredible work of all colleagues that we have been able to feed the country in a time of national crisis. Everyone has really pulled together to go above and beyond to look after our colleagues, customers and communities and it has been an honour to contribute to that effort. It’s been a privilege to work with so many dedicated people, particularly those within the my team, and receive support from my line manager, the wider compliance team and beyond.” 


Rachel Webber

Rachel has been our Community Champion at Gosport store for over seven years and throughout the Covid-19 pandemic Rachel’s role both in her store and her community was more important than ever - and she rose to the challenge with a passion and determination to support as many people as she could!


Rachel and her daughter went into isolation for 12 weeks as her daughter was classed as highly vulnerable. However, this did not stop Rachel from supporting her community and she used her time in isolation to make cloth bags for her local hospital to put their scrubs in. Later on in the year, when face masks became mandatory in our stores, Rachel also teamed up with groups in her local area to make free masks for her colleagues and her local community with the group ‘Team Scrubbers’. In just a few short weeks, the group produced 200 face masks!


Rachel has also been instrumental in supporting the mental health and wellbeing of people in her local area. When her local veterans outreach support group could no longer meet, Rachel teamed up with another Community Champion at a nearby Feltham store to provide digital support to these veterans every week throughout the pandemic.

As well as providing care packages to the support group to deliver to the veterans at home and encourage participation, each week Rachel attended the zoom call providing a safe space for the veterans who were often isolating at home alone.


She also hosted several virtual networking events with over 40 local groups in her area to find out how Asda could support them with the work they’re doing in their local areas to help those most affected by the pandemic. As part of this, Rachel set up a Pen Pal activity teaming up with local care homes, veteran groups and schools to encourage local children to write letters to people who may be feeling isolated as a result of Covid-19 restrictions.


June Walker

The BEM recognises individuals that have truly gone above and beyond to support others and June is a shining example of that! Described as selfless, caring, and passionate, June is deeply valued by her colleagues and local community in Donnington Wood. Through her hard work and positive attitude, she has been able to keep the spirits up of everyone around her during these challenging times.

This year, June has been a key asset to her community and to young people in particular at local youth clubs, schools and nurseries, going above and beyond with donations of food and other items to keep them afloat during uncertain times. As a Community Champion June is passionate about making sure that no child goes hungry whilst at school and even managed to secure a £500 grant for a children’s holiday group, allowing them to purchase vital supplies to support vulnerable children throughout the summer holidays too.

June’s passion for supporting school children has been apparent since before the pandemic though! She used to regularly visit schools and nurseries to support with education, such as cooking skills and the importance of health eating and although June has not been able to visit schools this year, she has embraced new technology to continue supporting and interacting with the children.

June has run video calls with holiday groups and after school clubs with fun, exciting and educational activities, such as a quiz about unusual fruits and vegetables and guessing the price of Asda branded products in store! These virtual activities kept the connection alive between herself and the schools she has supported for so many years, even though it was a little different to normal.

But it’s not just children June has been helping, she also regularly donates goods to community hubs, mental health charities, mutual aid groups and sheltered housing and has donated to 57 good causes with over £2000 worth of products to these groups in 2020 alone!

Thanks to June’s fantastic efforts, these groups have been able to support vulnerable people that otherwise may have gone without – she is a true community hero!

Sarah Joyce
At the start of lockdown, many of the UK's optical businesses made the decision to close their doors to patients due to Covid restrictions, operational complexity and costs. That didn't stop Sarah, who sprung into action to protect primary care services for our customers by keeping all of our 156 Optical departments open and operating!


Sarah said: “I am honoured and very proud to have been awarded a British Empire Medal, it was so important to me and the team that we did the right thing during the pandemic. Ensuring we were available for our patients for urgent care and being based in a supermarket environment meant we could also help patients reduce journeys whilst doing any essential shopping.


"The difference the teams have made to patients during this time, makes it all worthwhile. I am so grateful and proud of all of the team and departments for their hard work and efforts which made this possible.” 


Sarah took responsibility for working through and understanding all the Covid guidelines to make sure our optical departments had the appropriate SOPs (Standard Operating Procedures) in place to ensure they could open for essential primary optical care. She worked with our commercial team and suppliers to make sure they could remain operational for emergency repairs and services as well as continuing to provide vital services to patients during lockdown.


Sarah’s focus on doing the right thing for patients, and putting their needs above the costs or operational complexities of operating optical services during lockdown, meant that our Optical departments were able to offer appointments to 83,000 people who would otherwise have struggled to access the vital primary optical care they needed during the first lockdown – and many more thousands of patients since!

These services are a vital primary assessment for patients, often playing a critical role in identifying other underlying health conditions that would otherwise go undiagnosed. 


Sarah Cairns
Sarah had the brilliant idea of how we could use our existing systems to quickly enable priority access for vulnerable customers. This meant we were able to overcome some major obstacles, leading the way amongst our competitors to give much needed support to our vulnerable customers, at a time when they needed us most!

Sarah played a huge role in setting up a specific delivery pass for extremely vulnerable customers identified by the government, allowing us to support more than 130,000 extremely vulnerable people during such a worrying time, and when they might not have been able to get their essentials elsewhere.

Quick-thinking Sarah stepped outside her normal role to lead this project, with an innovative way of using our systems to set up support for our vulnerable customers very quickly.

On learning of her BEM award, Sarah said: "I feel very humbled to have won this award for playing my part is supporting our most vulnerable customers. I’m also incredibly proud of the team I work with for all their efforts during this time as every single colleague went above and beyond to support over 400,000 extremely vulnerable customers.”   

Thanks to Sarah’s sheer determination, we have now supported over 170,000 priority customers delivering more than 1.1 million orders to them this year!

Connor Wilkinson
Connor played a huge role in setting up our Priority Delivery pass for more than 130,000 clinically extremely vulnerable customers identified by the government. This means that we have been able to support these customers during such a worrying time, and when they might not have been able to get their basic essentials elsewhere.

Quick-thinking Connor spotted an opportunity to help our most vulnerable customers, and he was already working on this before the government asked for our support during a time of high demand for online delivery.

Connor was instrumental in leading the creation of a highly innovative technical solution which means our vulnerable customers with priority passes can get to see online delivery slots before non-vulnerable customers, as well as guaranteeing them a slot if they’d like it each week!

Incredibly, within 24 hours of receiving the data from the government, Connor had matched this to the customers on our database and applied a free priority pass to them – something no other retailer has done for free!

Connor's innovation and customer mind-set has been recognised for making a huge difference to the lives of so many of our extremely vulnerable customers during these difficult times and he's a deserving recipient of the BEM!


James Cameron
James has been recognised with a BEM for the huge role he played in setting up our Priority Delivery pass for our extremely vulnerable customers. His hard work has meant that we have been able to support more than 130,000 extremely vulnerable people during such a worrying time when they might not have been able to get their essentials elsewhere.

James managed the technical side of issuing priority passes to our vulnerable customers, using data from the government and spotting where people weren’t on the list, so that we could help as many customers as possible.

He said “While it is great, and quite unexpected, to get recognised with this award, it was good to be able to do something that you could see making a difference to people who really needed a helping hand.

"A lot of people worked very hard to make this happen, and the feedback we received from the customers we helped made it all worthwhile.”

James took it upon himself to take the priority pass further and use it to support care homes too. He sourced the names of all UK care homes from the regulators across the four home nations, matched these details to Asda customers, and was then able to apply 3,500 priority passes to care homes. Thanks to James’ innovative idea, we’re now supporting an incredible 4,000 care homes with priority deliveries to keep their vulnerable residents safe – that's over 20% of all UK care homes, what an achievement! 

Rafal Olbert
Data scientist Rafal came up with a solution that solved a problem where details supplied by each of the four home nations didn’t match precisely with the data we held for our customers due to issues such as spelling errors. Determined to help as many customers as possible, Rafal used advanced data science and algorithms to use different combinations of key information to identify as many vulnerable customers as we could. He used an advanced and innovative process called ‘fuzzy matching’ (who knew there was such a thing!) where machine learning algorithms are built to identify how different words could be pronounced and to match similar spellings. This made sure that a mispronounced or mis-spelt name didn’t mean a vulnerable customer was missed off the list!

Rafal even went as far as checking individual postcodes for unmatched customers on the government database, to see if we could offer additional support to vulnerable people who weren’t already Asda customers. His hard work was worth it, as we were then able to assign priority access to these customers, giving them early access to slots which previously would have been booked up due to high demand.

And Rafal didn’t stop there! His efforts meant that we could then give extremely vulnerable customers access to book a recurring slot, guaranteeing them a really important weekly delivery so they could get their essential shopping. Rafal was determined to support the most vulnerable in our communities, and by using his data know-how he was able to make a huge difference to so many people!