Impressed to note that charity Diabetes UK has just won the award from the Association of British Professional Conference Organisers (ABPCO) for the best conference staged by an in-house conference team, beating the two other shortlisted teams at Renewable UK and the Royal Statistical Society. The Diabetes UK event took place at Excel in March this year and team leader Therese Dolan commented that her team “worked incredibly hard to deliver this year’s event” and that she was “so proud to see them rewarded for all their effort and dedication”.
Rather less impressive for many is the curious decision by Chris Askew, chief executive of Diabetes UK to accept sponsorship of £500,000 from Britvic, makers of the Pepsi and Tango fizzy drinks, like those that Diabetes UK has identified in the past as contributing to the diabetes explosion.
This is, of course a great deal for Britvic, if not a valuable PR coup, but with questionable value for the charity. Doctors and campaigners have described it as “appalling” with one telling the press “How can my patients trust a charity that has partnered with Britvic” and others describing the sponsorship as “blood money” and claiming that “Diabetes UK has lost all credibility by doing this”. There has also been the suggestion that it runs contrary to the charity’s own funding policy which states: “No commercial partnership will be entered into with a company whose product or service is considered to be detrimental to people living with, or at risk of diabetes”. One newspaper has described Askew’s decision as “a grave misjudgment” – hopefully no pun intended – and suggested he gives the money back.
If he doesn’t, isn’t it a bit like a cancer charity taking money from Big Tobacco?