Published 3 years ago.
About a 7 minute read.
It’s during moments of great difficulty that our authentic selves shine through — and the same is true for companies. Long after the COVID-19 crisis passes, the world won’t forget the values-driven companies that led with a conscience. The time is now to decide: How will your brand be remembered?
has smashed any lingering doubts about the dual necessity and expectation for
companies to align their actions with higher values. The world-altering events
of the past few months have revealed that companies can and must exist beyond
servicing the bottom line. This virus threatens without discrimination every
human on our planet, and nearly everyone will experience loss — whether it’s a
loved one, a job or simply faith in the future.
Yet it’s during these moments of great difficulty that our authentic selves
shine through — and the same is true for companies. Long after the COVID-19
crisis passes, the world won’t forget the values-driven companies that led with
a conscience. The time is now to decide: How will your brand be remembered?
During World War II, many companies retooled their manufacturing facilities to
produce things supportive to the collective war effort. With many likening the
COVID-19 crisis to a world war, companies are stepping up to retool and produce
necessities such as personal protective equipment (PPE), hand sanitizer and
In hospitals and clinics across the country, our frontline healthcare workers
are exposing themselves to the disease as they treat the sick without adequate
protection. Fashion brands such as Christian Siriano, H&M and Zara have
pledged to adapt production lines to making millions of medical masks and face
mask covers for healthcare workers in the United States and Europe.
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Because COVID-19 attacks the lungs, there has been a high need for respirators,
which have been in short supply across the country. In response, Ford recently
announced it will produce 50,000 ventilators over the next 100
at a plant in Michigan, in cooperation with General Electric’s healthcare
unit; and can then build 30,000 per month as needed to treat patients afflicted
with COVID-19. Ford’s actions fall well in line with its value of “Enhancing
and GE’s with its commitment “EHS excellence to protect our people, our
communities and GE.”
And with hand sanitizer supplies dwindling, companies are repurposing
the French spirits company that owns Absolut vodka and Jameson Irish
whiskey, has repurposed its distilleries to produce it here in the US; while
luxury goods conglomerate LVMH — parent company of luxury fashion brands
Christian Dior, Guerlain and Givenchy — is using its perfume-making
operations to pump out hand sanitizer, and providing it to the French government
free of charge.
Repurposing production to support the common good also makes business sense —
with the global economy on the verge of collapse, providing high-demand items
can help keep companies busy during a downturn. Sustainable Brands recently
a long list of other companies pitching in for the common good.
Companies don’t always have to retool to be helpful in addressing COVID-19. Many
are leveraging their existing products and services for the collective good.
Allbirds and Crocs both are
donating their footwear products directly to healthcare workers who request
them. In only five days, Allbirds donated the $500,000 worth of sneakers it had
allocated for the effort; then switched to a model which allows customers to
“buy-one-give-one” or donate a
pair to a
healthcare worker. This small act can create a big difference in improving
morale for healthcare workers.
3M, one of the chief makers of N95
respirator masks, is stepping up production to meet rising demand. For frontline
healthcare workers, wearing these masks can mean the difference between getting
sick or staying healthy as they come into close contact with infected patients.
LinkedIn is offering to support the recruiting needs of organizations that
are filling volunteer or full-time positions specifically for coronavirus
response. Likewise, companies such as International Paper are donating boxes
to food banks facing shortages as they struggle to meet rising demand for their
services. And the Visa Foundation today
two programs totaling $210 million to support small and micro businesses —
aligning with its long-term focus on women’s economic advancement and inclusive
economic development, and to address an urgent need from local communities
during the COVID-19 crisis.
Every company has a core competency — and the wide implications of COVID-19
means most can find a way to direct this toward positive impact. At
thinkPARALLAX, we’re also taking this to heart — that’s why we’re offering some
of our services through a complimentary webinar on
Tuesday, April 14 at 11 am PDT, which focuses on how companies can engage
employees with purpose-driven communication on COVID-19.
Much ink has been spilled around the need to engage employees to drive
However, COVID-19 is testing corporate commitments to employee well-being.
Last month, millions lost their jobs after much of the US shut down to respect
No sector was hit harder than food service, where once-bustling restaurants
found themselves empty and restricted to pickup and delivery only. Many
restaurant workers have lost their jobs, and those who remain employed face
To help make sure his employees stay on payroll, Texas Roadhouse CEO Kent
that he would forgo the rest of his 2020 salary and bonus — amounting to over
$1 million. Taylor also has donated $5 million of his personal funds to
Andy's Outreach, a non-profit run by Texas
Roadhouse to help employees in times of need, demonstrating his commitment to
the people that make his business possible. In addition to being the right thing
to do, this also generated enormous brand equity in positive public perception.
Conversely, Whole Foods CEO John Mackey drew public
after he sent out an email last month to grocery store employees suggesting that
they “donate” their paid time off to coworkers facing medical emergencies. The
billion-dollar company also said it would offer unlimited unpaid time off during
the month of March. Many employees reported feeling shortchanged by this policy.
Whole Foods ultimately joined its parent company, Amazon — as well as
Walmart, Darden Restaurants, McDonald’s, Apple, Instacart,
Uber, Lyft and other major brands — to offer two weeks paid time off for
employees who contract COVID-19. While these companies could be doing more, it’s
Prioritizing employee well-being also means displaying a sensible sense of
humanity for them during these tough times. Slack CEO Stewart
his team them not to stress about work, and to focus on their loved ones and
taking care of themselves. Likewise, San Francisco-based IoT solutions
provider Samsara — after instituting a hiring freeze
due to COVID-19 — managed to reassign all 75 members of its recruiting team
across three geographies to other departments, rather than lay them off.
Companies beware: How you treat your employees during this crisis will reflect
on your brand for years to come.
It’s too early to tell what the long-term impacts of COVID-19 will be on our
world, and the worst may yet lie ahead. But every business has a responsibility
to do its part in helping us all push through. Your employees, customers and
Companies can retool their services and products to support the collective
effort to deal with COVID-19. This doesn’t always have to be things that
directly impact healthcare workers — there is a long list of stakeholders being
negatively impacted by the crisis that businesses can find ways to benefit.
Businesses ought to take a deep look within to determine how they can best
leverage their existing skills and experience to help. If anything, companies
should remember the people who make everything possible — their employees — and
do whatever they can to help them through this difficult time.
We’re going to get through this together — that’s the only way — and our
collective actions today will determine the stories told tomorrow.
Published Apr 6, 2020 10am EDT / 7am PDT / 3pm BST / 4pm CEST
Mike Hower is a sustainability communicator and connector committed to helping purpose-driven businesses and people unlock their full potential for positive impact. As founder and principal consultant at Hower Impact, he works with companies to translate sustainability strategy into stories that inform, engage and inspire investors, customers, employees, regulators and other stakeholders in the service of social, environmental and business goals. Through his Impact Hired initiative, he works to connect and engage corporate sustainability professionals at all stages of their careers.
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