It’s not just the titans of industry joining the good fight and innovating their way to help
It is becoming increasingly clear that the impact of COVID-19 is reaching far beyond human tragedy and it is set to influence business practices for the long-term. As we establish exactly how these shifts in commerce and entrepreneurship take form, organisations large and small are stepping up to the plate in the wake of the pandemic in inspiring and innovating ways. From industry giants—including Amazon, rapidly preparing ready-for-use virus tests—to a Welsh gin distillery switching to hand-sanitiser production.
The diversity of help shows us that it’s not only sewing gowns and constructing respirators that’s required during these historic times. What is apparent is that these organisations are focusing on their core competencies to help out by doing what they do best. If you’re wondering whether your business can shift operations to participate more, consider repurposing your expertise and know-how as best suits the situation.
On March 11, the World Economic Forum announced the alliance of multinationals in the fight against coronavirus as well as to adapt business practices and serve to mitigate the economic impact of the pandemic. Since its announcement more than 200 organisations globally have joined the alliance.
Businesses turn to innovating in a bid to produce COVID-19 supplies
In the UK, titans of industry answered Health Secretary Matt Hancock’s call on March 16 via Twitter to “support our national effort for #coronavirus ventilator production”. Since his appeal, businesses including Rolls Royce among other automobile manufacturers and Dyson have taken action and shifted their production to support the National Health Service (NHS). Rolls Royce has since taken the initiative to set up the COVID-19 data alliance to help kickstart businesses and the economy on the road to recovery. James Dyson, the British-born billionaire behind the revolutionary vacuum cleaners and innovating airflow technology, initiated production of 10,000 ventilators with more scheduled.
Up in Scotland, the brewery BrewDog along with other Scottish distilleries have switched to producing World Health Organization-approved hand sanitiser as has the gin manufacturer In The Welsh Wind from their Gogerddan Arms distillery in Ceredigion, Wales.
Similarly, French conglomerate Louis Vuitton Moët Hennessy (LVMH) has switched out perfume production and ventured into the hand sanitiser sector. The company said in a statement in March that “LVMH will use the production lines of its perfume and cosmetics […] to produce large quantities of hydroalcoholic gels”.
In the tech sector, Amazon has invested $20 million into the Amazon Web Services (AWS) Diagnostic Initiative. The initiative intends to accelerate the delivery time of COVID-19 tests to market. Further, Amazon has pledged $5m to local Seattle-based businesses—home to the company since Jeff Bezos started out—that are impacted by COVID-19 as a result of the retail and tech giant’s staff working from home.
Organisations are taking a similar initiative as Amazon and adapting to regional needs during the pandemic. In hard-hit Puget Sound in Washington state, Microsoft has co-created the COVID-19 Response Fund (CRF), to help address the community needs. In March, Microsoft president Brad Smith stated via the company blog “while reducing the number of people on our campuses has also reduced the need for onsite support from hourly workers supporting our operations, we will continue to pay them their regular wages, whether their services are needed or not. It’s encouraging to see Amazon, Expedia, Facebook, Google, and Salesforce announce they’ll do the same. As large corporations we can take this step and should. But not all businesses will be able to do so.” By 9 March, the fund had grown from $2m to $9m.
Companies pivot while staying true to their USP
It’s not all multinationals and titans using their resources and know-how to aid in the fight against the pandemic. Organisations are pitching in to fight the global pandemic amid the economic downturn, and they are coming up with solutions that are nothing short of innovating techniques, not to mention inspirational to fellow businesses.
Las Vegas-based e-commerce company Zappos is doing what it does best—and you are forgiven for assuming that this is selling shoes. The business sees itself as a customer service company first and foremost. So they have turned their customer support service into an “ask me anything” resource. Customers can also call Zappos “if you just want someone to talk to, about anything—the weather, the latest Netflix show, your dream vacation plans for when this is over—anything. We’d love to connect with you.”
Mental health and wellbeing is important now more than ever. Following Zappos’ relief efforts is Oji Life Lab, a company that focuses on improving and sharpening the emotional intelligence of its users. Oji Life Lab’s Cheif Executive Matt Crush explains how they are moving to help people globally, not just their app users. “We wanted to be helpful in as direct a way as possible in this crazy time (even though we don’t have a secret cache of N95 masks),” he writes. “We decided what we could do best was to strive to give help to everyone—not just our customers—so they could better navigate the unprecedented emotional challenges we’re all encountering. Toward this goal, after a lot of late nights and great discussions with our co-founders (who run the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence) we created an e-book with tips and techniques that people can apply right now to create a bit of calm amidst the COVID-19 chaos.”
Innovating to success
The tragic human suffering and loss of life due to the COVID-19 pandemic have taken their toll on countries, societies and the global economy. In the wake of the disruption caused by the pandemic—including hurting the stock market, putting a halt to the daily office commute and quarantining millions of people—businesses worldwide are feeling the pinch in the drop in commerce and the slow-down of operations. However, these trying times have sparked inspiration through waves of innovation as CEOs and organisations of all sizes rally to the call to adapt to the fight at hand. Doubtless, the waves of innovation across sectors will continue to ripple across the global economy for the rest of 2020 as business leaders take the helm to make positive change happen.