Partnership is pivotal to us achieving our Charitable Goals – by Chris Askew

Many of you will have seen media coverage this morning and over the weekend outlining some of the negative response we’ve seen to our announcement last week to partner with Britvic Plc.

Open dialogue is absolutely vital in helping us achieve our charitable mission, so I want to use this blog to address some of the concerns we’ve seen raised both through the media and on social media over the weekend.

We never enter into partnership with other organisations lightly. Our name, our reputation, and our commitment to supporting people living with, affected by or at risk of all types of diabetes are too important. Any partnership we enter into – including this new partnership with Britvic – only happens if we truly believe it will bring about positive change.

We understood going into this partnership that tough conversations might follow. Our decision to partner with Britvic was driven by careful assessment that the benefits to people living with or at risk of diabetes outweighed any risk associated with partnership. As a result of numerous, frank conversations between Diabetes UK and Britvic on the need to tackle major health issues – including obesity and Type 2 diabetes – we recognised that we could achieve more in partnership than we could alone.

We know that corporate partnerships can be challenging at times. We also know that we won’t always agree. Our respective ambitions of making a positive difference to the world around us give us shared purpose, but we also take appropriate steps to protect ours – and our partners’ – independence. That’s why every Diabetes UK partnership is subject to a process of assessment  – in line with our Working With Funding Partners Policy – to ensure the partners we work with are consistent with our aims and values, and formalised with a legal contract that reinforces our independent voice.

The management of both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes is complex and nuanced, particularly when it comes to diet and nutrition. On this issue, there is no one-size-fits all that applies universally to all people with the condition, or those at risk. What’s often lost in discussions about healthy diet is that people with diabetes – either Type 1 or Type 2 – can eat and drink the same as people without the condition, and that moderation is key for healthy living.

It’s also important to remember that sugary drinks have their role to play for people with Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes who use insulin, many of whom rely on them for the treatment of hypos.

We welcome the many steps Britvic has taken to date to help people make healthier choices; steps that include removing 20 billion calories, annually, from diets across Great Britain since 2013; adopting the traffic light food labelling system; and never advertising to children under 12. These steps align with campaigning calls we have, and continue to make, to government and industry alike. Working in partnership with Britvic provides us an opportunity to support taking this good work even further, and demonstrating to the wider food and drink industry how to put healthier living at the heart of what corporations can do.

Our statement this weekend remains true; we fight the crisis of diabetes on many fronts, and this is at the core of everything we do. And we firmly believe that if we’re to achieve our mission, and if we’re to see the changes we need to see across society to tackle the diabetes crisis, we need to work with all those with a responsibility and opportunity to improve the nation’s health. That includes the food and drink industry, as well as others such as government and policy-makers

That means Diabetes UK will continue to campaign, with vigour, and in partnership the Obesity Health Alliance and others, for significant action across government, industry and society to tackling obesity. We will speak with an independent voice and we will hold the food and drink industry to account and encourage action that makes the healthier choice easier for everyone.

Without working with industry, either as a partner or critical friend – we simply cannot encourage the wholesale change we need to see to improve the health of the nation, and tackle the diabetes crisis on all fronts. Furthermore, the funding which derives from partnerships of all sorts enables us to provide support every day for people with diabetes, to fund necessary research into new treatments and to campaign for improved care. The diabetes crisis is one that must be fought on all fronts, and partnership is an important way of getting us closer, faster, to our ambition of a world where diabetes can do no harm.

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