Brands are changing business tactics to support the healthcare industry as COVID-19 cases escalate.
These unprecedented times, in which cities have ground to a standstill and businesses have been turned on their heads, call for extraordinary measures. Many brands are now stepping up to the challenge by pivoting business models and putting people ahead of profit.
Luxury group LVMH announced on Sunday, March 15, 2020, that it will switch its perfume and cosmetics production lines to start manufacturing hand sanitizers for French health authorities for free. “Through this initiative, LVMH intends to help address the risk of a lack of product in France and enable a greater number of people to continue to take the right action to protect themselves from the spread of the virus,” the company says. In addition to this, LVMH pledged $2.2 million to the Chinese Red Cross in Wuhan when news of COVID-19 was first spotlighted in January.
In similar moves, distilleries across the United States are also responding to hand sanitizer shortages by creating their own alcohol-based cleaning solutions and distributing to local communities and healthcare services for free. Old Fourth Distillery in Atlanta switched production in early March and from March 17 onwards it is making hand sanitizers exclusively for local municipalities and healthcare professionals.
Moonrise Distillery in Georgia started producing hand sanitizer using its botanical gin infused with natural aloe vera, again offering the product for free. The company states that, “We are a community of huggers and hand shakers, and we want to do our part to keep that warmth around but in as safe a manner as possible.” Green Mountain Distillers in Vermont echoed the same sentiment by giving away hand sanitizers. Co-owner Harold Faircloth explains that the brand “wanted to do something that would be as positive as possible.”
Durham Distillery in North Carolina has created a cleaning agent containing 70% ethanol, the most effective concentration to kill microbes. The company announced on March 12 that it would donate the sanitizing solution, made for disinfecting surfaces, to the hospitality industry.
Beyond sanitizers, companies are looking to supplement other in-demand industries. On Monday, March 16, Uber announced it would be giving away over 300,000 free meals to first responders and healthcare workers in the United States and Canada who are actively helping with the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition, the company’s Uber Eats division has waived its delivery fee on all orders to support local businesses.
Pret A Manger and McDonald’s are offering NHS (National Health Service) staff complimentary drinks alongside discounted food in the United Kingdom, and Domino’s will be giving away free medium-sized pizza to all healthcare workers with valid ID on March 20. Meanwhile, salad chain Sweetgreen started implementing dedicated Outpost operations offering free meals for hospital workers and medical personnels across the US.
In early March, the Seattle Times reported a project funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation that will offer at-home COVID-19 test kits. More recently, Amazon’s digital healthcare arm, Amazon Care, has offered the foundation its support to provide kits that can test for coronavirus symptoms, with the goal to produce and distribute thousands of tests to anxious consumers.
The Jack Ma Foundation and the Alibaba Foundation announced on March 13 that they will be sending 500,000 COVID-19 testing kits and 1 million masks to the United States. The founder of the Alibaba Group, Jack Ma joined Twitter on March 15 to broadcast the shipment being loaded onto an airplane and taking off from Shanghai airport. “Drawing from my own country’s experience, speedy and accurate testing and adequate personal protective equipment for medical professionals are most effective in preventing the spread of the virus,” he says.
This unexpected and unprecedented global health crisis is rapidly reorganizing business priorities and highlighting the sincerity of brands’ CSR (corporate social responsibility) efforts. Companies in the East made quick changes to production last month as cases there peaked, and now the West is responding in similar ways. Despite economic uncertainty, the action of “doing good” is offering much-needed positivity—and perhaps such altruism will see a longer-term pay-off among ethically minded consumers.