Gareth Rhys Williams on 2021's toughest trials: 'maintaining morale (and gallows humour) in the face of scrutiny'

2020 may have been a year like no other, but 2021 was a chip off the old block and relentless from day one. Government's chief commercial officer tells us about 12 more months of dealing with Covid while pushing ahead with new challenges
Photo: Eric Schmuttenmaer/Flickr/CC BY-ND 2.0/CC BY-SA 2.0

By Civil Service World

31 Dec 2021


What was your highlight of 2021?

Launching the net-zero exclusion policy. We’re all becoming increasingly aware of the vital importance of reducing the country’s carbon footprint, so our commercial policy team have worked up a policy to help drive that agenda. 

In June we announced that we would no longer accept bids for large contracts (over £5m per year) from companies without a published plan to achieve net zero by 2050. 

Next year, we’ll start to track companies’ plans against their published emissions data. It has been greeted with acclaim from industry and we’re getting a lot of interest from other countries looking to implement something similar.

How did you tackle the biggest challenges facing your organisation in 2021?

Along with many parts of the civil service, I suspect, the commercial team across government have been absolutely exhausted by the unbelievable effort put into procuring the things we’ve needed during the pandemic. 

A major challenge therefore has been maintaining morale and a sense of perspective (and sometimes gallows humour) in the face of scrutiny. 

Working under intense pressure is never easy. However, looking back now and comparative reports from across the globe have shown exactly how well colleagues performed; absolutely and relatively.
What is your number one priority for 2022?

We’ve just launched the latest commercial functional strategy that will run for the life of the SR. It’s full of great ideas to keep propelling the commercial function forward and make us indeed “the best commercial function in the UK”. Perhaps the key initiative for me is to reform the procurement rules across the country. We want to make the regulatory regime as slick and efficient as we can, while still retaining all the open, fair and transparent aspects of today’s system.
Which historical, mythical or contemporary figure would you most like to join you for a New Year’s Eve celebration?

Obviously Dumbledore. If he’s actually as good as advertised he’d be able to sort out the washing up and all the annoying issues the year ahead will bring, and if he’s not we could still have a great chat about beard grooming and bizarre recipes for hooch. 

For some reason, my son says Taylor Swift. 


Commercial Leadership
Share this page