11 Ways Companies Are Giving Back During the COVID-19 Crisis
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People everywhere are grappling with the way COVID-19 has affected daily life. Millions are suddenly unemployed, schools and most businesses are closed indefinitely, and essential items are in short supply.
But as fear and anxiety have spread, so have good deeds. Companies around the globe are finding ways to give back to their communities, lending support to those who need it most during this unprecedented moment in time.
From feeding the hungry to making proprietary tech and resources available for scientists to develop a vaccine, here are 11 ways that companies, all partners of The Muse, are trying to make a difference in the fight against coronavirus.
1. Keeping Our Hands Clean
When the COVID-19 outbreak began, one of the first items to disappear from grocery and pharmacy shelves was hand sanitizer, and manufacturers haven’t been able to keep up with the frenzied demand these days. So companies in other industries are stepping up to fill the gap.
Anheuser-Busch is brewing more than beer during the pandemic—the company is now producing hand sanitizer out of several of their flagship and partner breweries across the U.S. to support the American Red Cross and critical relief efforts. The initial production runs from their Baldwinsville, NY, brewery—totaling nearly 175,000 eight-ounce bottles of hand sanitizer—were sent to support communities in California, Illinois, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, and Texas.
Premium beverage company Pernod Ricard USA has been working with the federal government to help curb the national shortage. The company is making hand sanitizer at all their manufacturing sites and distilleries in the country and donating 100% of the product for the federal government to distribute where it’s most needed.
Also joining in the effort at a global scale is beauty multinational Coty, which began producing hydro-alcoholic gel (used as hand sanitizer) to give to medical and emergency services staff who are facing shortages. The company produced its first batches of hand sanitizer in factories in the U.S. and Monaco, and plans to start production at additional factories, depending on the resources and materials available as well as local government regulations. Production and donations are expected to reach tens of thousands of units per week.
2. Making Gear for Healthcare Workers
While Gap Inc. stores are temporarily closed to stem the spread of the coronavirus, the company has shifted its resources to make masks, gowns, and goggles for healthcare workers on the front lines of the epidemic in the U.S.
The company has tapped into their expansive supply chain and long-standing relationships to connect their vendors directly with hospitals in need to immediately source personal protective equipment, including millions of masks and gowns. Their team is actively working with California hospital networks, including Kaiser, and is in talks to expand into other regions, including New York.
At the same time, Gap Inc. is working with their manufacturing partners to produce fabric masks and protective gear in their own facilities. The company has also reached out to local emergency responders offering free storage space for supplies in their secure warehouses.
3. Feeding the Hungry
With school closures and job disruptions, more people are turning to food banks to feed their families. Many relief organizations including Feeding America are asking for help to meet the increased need because of the pandemic, and companies like BlackRock are pitching in with big donations. The global investment management firm has committed $50 million of phased funding to worldwide relief efforts, starting with $23 million to support food banks, frontline workers, and community institutions working directly with vulnerable populations.
The initial funding phase included recipients from Feeding America to local food banks where BlackRock employees volunteer, such as City Harvest in New York City, SF-Marin and Alameda County food banks in the Bay Area, and the Atlanta Community Foundation. The company has also donated to food bank networks in Italy, Spain, France, Germany, and India, as well as to the Global FoodBanking Network to help meet ongoing needs in Asia and Latin America.
Another company supporting Feeding America and its network of 200 food banks across the country is American Express. The company is encouraging customers to give to the organization—and matching any donation their U.S. Card Members make to Feeding America using Membership Rewards points, up to $1 million.
Expensify is helping families who rely on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) to make ends meet during this difficult time. The software company has redirected all its charitable funds toward reimbursing up to $50 per family for essential goods and groceries purchased on their SNAP card. Every Expensify.org donation and Expensify card purchase directly contributes to this cause.
4. Keeping Kids’ Minds Engaged
While school buildings are closed, Audible is offering hundreds of free audiobooks for kids and teens through its Stories streaming service at stories.audible.com.
Audible Stories features a wide range of content, from Winnie-the-Pooh for the “littlest listeners,” to literary classics such as Pride and Prejudice, to the ever-popular Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (yes, the U.K. version!). The platform includes audiobooks in eight languages: English, French, German, Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch, Italian, and Japanese. All stories are free to stream on your desktop, laptop, phone, or tablet.
Listeners aren’t asked to create an account or log in to listen, and they’ll never be asked for any personal information as part of the listening experience.
“Stories will be here so kids everywhere and of all ages can stream incredible content to keep their minds engaged while daily routines are disrupted in these unprecedented circumstances,” the company says.
5. Helping Communities Map the Outbreak
As millions watch the rising reach and toll of COVID-19, map-based dashboards, powered by technology like Esri’s, have become a compelling way to monitor the spread almost in real time.
To help public health agencies and other organizations jump-start their response to coronavirus, Esri is offering its location intelligence, geographic information system (GIS) and mapping software, services, and materials as a way to keep communities aware of the impact of the outbreak. The company is giving access to these resources at no cost with a complimentary software subscription.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Centers for Disease Control, and numerous state and local emergency response agencies are collaborating with Esri in the fight against COVID-19. Additionally, institutions like Johns Hopkins University’s Center for Systems Science and Engineering have built their own maps using Esri’s ArcGIS Dashboards.
By helping these organizations and communities map and understand the spread of COVID-19, Esri’s software “helps them get the word out broadly, and that helps better decision-making globally around the spread of the pandemic,” says Ryan Lanclos, Esri Director of Public Safety Solutions. “These datasets are useful for governments, school officials, and businesses providing leadership, resources, and programs during the COVID-19 response. But of utmost importance, this is critical information for communities.”
6. Giving Relief to the Most Vulnerable
While home is supposed to be the safest place to be during the global pandemic, it’s far from it for victims of domestic violence who are shut in with their abusers.
In fact, the National Domestic Violence Hotline warns about abusers taking advantage of an already stressful situation to gain more control over their victims. On top of that, programs that serve survivors have been significantly affected by social distancing guidelines, and travel restrictions may impact a survivor’s escape or safety plan.
The Allstate Foundation is contributing $500,000 to help the National Network to End Domestic Violence and support more than 100 local domestic violence organizations and is giving funding for the National Domestic Violence Hotline to enable remote-working technology.
The Allstate Foundation also provided the National Runaway Safeline with technology resources for remote counselors to help at-risk youth during this time.
7. Putting Shoes on Frontline Feet
Allbirds donated $500,000 worth of shoes to members of the medical community as a thank you for their hard work tending to patients during the COVID-19 outbreak.
Now the company is offering “Buy a Pair, Give a Pair” bundles to continue donating pairs of Wool Runners to hospital workers with every shoe purchase. The pricing ranges from $146 to $186. People can also donate a pair of shoes for $60 without making a purchase.
8. Supporting Crucial Research
The race is on to come up with a COVID-19 vaccine, and many businesses are pitching in by making their products available to support researchers and expedite vaccine development.
Take GSK, for example: In March, the pharmaceutical and healthcare company began sharing its vaccine adjuvant technology with scientists and organizations working on candidate vaccines. The use of an adjuvant is of particular importance because it reduces the amount of vaccine protein required per dose, allowing more vaccine doses to be produced. The company was also looking into sharing its available manufacturing capacity to provide scale production for an eventual vaccine.
Now GSK has joined forces with Sanofi, another pharmaceutical company, to combine their innovative technologies and develop an adjuvanted COVID-19 vaccine. The companies plan to enter clinical trials in the second half of 2020 and, if successful, to have a vaccine available in the second half of 2021.
As an institution dedicated to fighting cancer and other life-threatening diseases, City of Hope has also taken up the task of developing a COVID-19 vaccine using data and other immunological research. City of Hope’s researchers are working with the Food and Drug Administration to potentially begin phase 1 clinical trials in six to eight months.
Tech startup Castor has also joined the global fight against coronavirus by making its research data capture system available for free for all COVID-19 researchers. As of mid-April, the company’s tech was supporting more than 150 related studies across 10 countries.
9. Hiring Laid-Off Workers
Online mortgage startup Better.com has pledged to onboard 1,000 new employees in 2020, with a focus on hiring hospitality employees who were laid off due to the economic downturn.
No college degree or previous experience in real estate, tech, or finance is necessarily required for these roles—Better is committed to training people if they are a good fit. In fact, the company feels that many attributes that make people successful in hospitality, such as having a customer-centric mindset and an ability to be levelheaded and calm under pressure, are valuable and transferable to their sales, customer experience, and operations roles. The company plans to hire for teams across their offices in New York City; Irvine, CA; and Charlotte, NC, by the end of the year.
“Whether you have a college degree or not, whether you’ve worked as a concierge or a chef, we believe in hiring for the values and abilities you bring to our team and believe we have the ability to develop and grow your career here over time,” the company says on the page launched for this initiative.
10. Supporting Local Small Businesses
With New Jersey under a stay-at-home order, all nonessential businesses have shuttered, creating a strain on small businesses and a spike in unemployment. More than 858,000 unemployment claims have been filed in the state since mid-March.
In response, Prudential has waived rent for the 21 tenants in the company’s retail spaces around its office buildings in Newark, NJ, as a way to ease the financial burden on these businesses. The company also continues to pay vendors for building services, such as janitorial, cafeteria, and security, to help prevent layoffs.
Additionally, Prudential contributed $250,000 to the Small Business Emergency Grant Fund started by the City of Newark; $50,000 to support employees of small businesses; and $600,000 to the United Way of Greater Newark’s Community COVID-19 Fund, which prioritizes public health, relief for individuals and families, and support for the nonprofit sector.
11. Empowering Technology to Accelerate the Global Response
The rapidly changing situation amidst the COVID-19 outbreak has not only overwhelmed families and businesses, but also governments around the world and the medical community at large. To aide in the efforts to put an end to the pandemic, tech giants like Intel and Cisco are giving funds and sharing their resources and expertise.
For example, Intel pledged $40 million in funding as part of a pandemic response initiative. Part of the funding is to accelerate access to technology at the point of patient care and speed scientific research. The company also allocated up to $10 million for an innovation fund for requests where access to Intel’s resources can have immediate impact. For example, the deployment of an Intel-powered platform enabled care providers at Houston Methodist Hospital to monitor patients virtually without risking exposure in ICU rooms. Additionally, Intel joined the Open COVID Pledge, giving scientists and researchers free access to their intellectual property portfolio to help during the pandemic.
Another company that’s assisting at a global scale is Cisco (parent company of Muse partner Cisco Meraki), which committed $225 million in cash, in-kind, and planned giving to support both the global and local response to COVID-19. Part of this donation will go to the United Nations Foundation’s COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund, supporting the World Health Organization’s worldwide efforts to help prevent, detect, and manage the spread of the virus. Cisco is also providing funding for heads of state, government agencies, and businesses to rapidly deploy COVID-19-related technology solutions, as well as granting expanded access to their free Webex and security offers.