A spoonful of sugar

SugarIn a few weeks’ time my wife will get a medal. Not from the queen, but from Diabetes UK. You see she’s been an insulin dependent diabetic since before she started school. And the charity gives a gong to people who when they have lived with the condition for 50 years.

Diabetes comes in two forms. Type one is when the pancreas stops producing insulin, for reasons not fully understood. Type two is often caused by obesity and poor diet. The former requires four injections a day; the latter can often be treated by a change of diet and perhaps some tablets.

Obesity is something of an epidemic these days. We exercise less and eat more. We eat more processed food and, as we all now know only too well, don’t really know what ingredients have been used.

It is not fashionable to blame gluttony and poor self-control. The obese are seen as victims, which indeed in many ways they often are. Supermarkets, driving prices down and independents to the wall, are often blamed for selling us stuff we really ought not be eating.

Which is a roundabout way of reflecting on the recently announced tie-up between Diabetes UK and Tesco. The charity does great work, lobbying to raise awareness, providing advice and guidance to diabetics and raising money for much needed research.

Tesco has made the outfit their charity of the year and that’s likely to deliver a cool £10m. It’s also going to create some fantastic publicity for both organisations; publicity that they both need for quite different reasons. One because we all need to understand diabetes better, the other because it wants to be seen to be a responsible retailer.

I don’t know how the deal was struck. I’m guessing there was a long list, a short list and some pretty detailed analysis of the likely impact. There may have been other equally worthwhile charities on the shortlist; but clearly none with as strong a synergy with the Tesco marketing machine.

And that’s pretty good in my book. It’s further evidence that well-structured private/third sector partnerships can make a massive difference. Some will no doubt shout ‘exploitation’, but I don’t see it that way. It’s more of a big example of what we all need to be doing now. Selling the benefits to the corporate world of supporting us in changing the world – or at least the bits we each work on.

Giving to charity without any tangible return is a bitter pill for any organisation to swallow. Philanthropy is for families, not firms. As you set your sights on raiding the corporate coffers, remember what Mary Poppins taught you; that a ‘spoonful of sugar’ really does help the medicine go down!


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Jonathan Hunt
Jonathan Hunt
11 years ago

Obviously, diabetics of both types (I’m Two, but insulin dependent) must welcome financial sponsorship on the scale given by Tesco.

Hopefully it will be put to good use in making our lives easier, but more importantly helping to reduce the numbers from developing the disease, and keeping it in check for those who do.

One way Tesco could be of huge help is providing point-of-sale information to show the huge amounts of sugar in products like breakfast cereals, where low sugar alternatives are available.

Perhaps this would be a better use of the traffic-light system supermarkets seem to prefer. And focus attention on the need to look at the sugar content of most packaged foods.

It could also help by developing and promoting low-sugar alternatives to such products.

Tesco could gain by being seen as the healthy, low-sugar grocer, and by dint of its leading position force others into copying these ideas.

That would certainly speed up the fight against obesity and other causes of Type 2 diabetes.

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