Sometimes the large corporations that operate in our society get a good public kicking – often they deserve it, as when they find all manner of clever and legal ways to avoid paying their fair share of tax in the country in which they operate.
But we should be equally quick to praise these commercial giants when they do things well. I was at Tesco Lee Mill on Saturday to view the collection of food from very generous customers for the Foodbank in Plymouth. It was great to see the amount of food handed over for people who fall on hard times. Foodbanks should not be necessary in an ideal world, but we know that sometimes disaster can befall any of us, and it is great to know that charities like the Trussell Trust, backed up by local churches, are there to help out. We have one of the most comprehensive and generous benefit systems in the world, but it can be slow to move and over-bureaucratic and supplementary short term crisis support is very welcome.
I was able to be fully briefed by the Tesco store manager about all of the excellent work they do as a company in helping local people, in addition to allowing the foodbank to collect from generous customers as on Saturday. They are committed to having no food fit for human consumption going to waste. So they donate all of their surplus food every night to local charities, including Devon and Cornwall Food action, Dame Hannah’s and the Salvation Army at Devonport. Every night! This means that hundreds of families every week receive a welcome helping hand. Over 80,000 meals have been donated in this way this year alone. Not a lot of people know that.
The team at Lee Mill also donate and serve a Christmas meal to the people at Devonport House every yuletide.
The fancy term for big companies investing in their community is: Corporate Social responsibility, something that we are increasingly good at in the UK. There is nothing new in it: in the Bible 3,500 years ago wealthy farmers were encouraged to leave the fallen ears of wheat for the disadvantaged at harvest time. It is great to see that timeless principle brought up to date.
We have an extensive welfare system spending many billions of pounds every year. But it is also important that all of us do our personal bit for our neighbour. Well done Tesco.