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COVID-19: When companies act for good

A glimpse of what society could be.

Without a doubt, the world is living in one of its weirdest months yet. Countries are shutting down their borders and asking citizens to stay home. Our day-to-day lives are affected in many ways by natural events larger than us and larger than our governing bodies.

It’s happened so quickly and nobody knows how long until the threat of COVID-19 is passed, but we can already draw lessons from this period suspended in time. Once past the first period of shock and toilet paper hoarding, a worldwide online solidarity movement has emerged.

Wash your hands
Now you know
(Credit: cottonbro)

We’ve also learnt to sing happy birthday to ourselves twice over around 15 times a day and that when the world is in danger people go for toilet paper before food and drinks.

Companies are moving quickly to adapt and keep their services relevant during this period of uncertainty. A lot of them, beyond keeping their employees healthy, have used their specific strengths to help the global effort against the pandemic.

The current crisis has a lot to teach us for the future, in particular with regards to the role that businesses could take on for climate action. What can we learn from it to adapt to the fight against climate change?

Using their capital

Some of the largest companies in the world are making donations to support organizations involved in solving the crisis. It’s interesting to see how companies are stepping up where sometimes governments are missing resources. Is it proof that in the perspective of climate change companies have the capacity to adapt and contribute to the global shift towards a GHG-neutral & sustainable economy?

Italian fashion for covid
Giorgio Armani and many other names of Italian fashion are supporting their country’s effort (Credit: Giorgio Armani)

Giorgio Armani has donated €1.3 million to four hospitals in Rome and Milan, as well as to the Civil Protection Agency. Gucci and Bottega Veneta, has donated €2 million to help the fight the coronavirus outbreak. Amazon created a $25M fund to help its delivery drivers and seasonal workers cope with coronavirus, and a $5M dollar fund to help affected small businesses in Seattle. Amazon and Microsoft have each pledged $2.5 million, with the possibility of more, to help out those afflicted by the disease in Seattle.

Resources for all

With all that extra time at home, feeding poor online souls has become something of a priority. The french startup Swello gave free access to their online tool to marketers for a month. Online solidarity is helping people to go through confinement. In the future how could we keep the emerging online solidarity to fight climate change?

Decathlon COVID-19
Ce la farremo! (Credit: FabFactory)

Some companies are also giving resources to support hospitals and medical staffs, such a Decathlon. The sports company has indeed discovered that their “Easybreath” mask created for snorkelling could replace the mask for the medical staff and with 3D printing equipment, could also become the breathing machine for patients. Decathlon has already donated 30,000 masks and stopped online sales of the item.

Lightning reactivity

In order to keep their business running, a lot of companies have had to change their ways of doing business. Starbucks shifted to a full to-go service to respect social distancing, as have many other restaurants since.

Another business, Horderly, a professional home organisation company, of 30 employees launched a virtual online service to replace on-site meetings and maintain their customer relationship. This online service was created in only three days.

Read also: The Benefits of Monitoring Carbon Emissions for a Company

Companies have the resources and capacities to adapt and to respond quickly to prevent failure in the business jungle. Some of these solutions are actually sustainable solutions, which make us wonder how companies could keep after the crisis the best sustainable practices they have implemented during the coronavirus episode to reduce their carbon footprint.

Local action

Due to the travel restriction and closed borders, importations have slowed down. This has mechanically led local actors to rise to prominence. French supermarkets are shifting to 100% french natural produces for vegetables, fruits, meat and fish, to support local farmers suffering from closed borders.

Acting locally is a natural move for companies. It allows them to have a real and direct impact. L’atelier Lener Cordier, a prêt-à-porter fashion brand in northern France switched from trenches to making masks for the hospital workforce.

Maison Lener Cordier changed its habits to support the need for masks (Credit: Maison Lener Cordier)

Another country, another great example of local action: Chef José Andrés in the US announced that he will transform eight of his New York and Washington, DC, restaurants into community kitchens for those struggling during the pandemic.

We hope that despite the crisis and the blurred future coming up, companies will keep on implement local actions and target more and more local partners. It’s never too much to remind that local action is part of the resilience to climate change.

Flexibility at work

As The New York Times headlines highlighted lately: “Workplace vs. Coronavirus: No one has a playbook for this.” For most of the companies, sending employees home to work from there for an undefined time is a totally new situation. For companies with online services or online products, such as SaaS or e-commerce, the adaptation is easier than for online companies.

Some CEOs have to deal with an economic crisis on top of the pandemic. To cope with the situation some of them had to take important decisions, such as Delta’s CEO who is forgoing his salary for the year to try and diminish layoffs.

The entire flight industry has been grounded for 2 months and counting.
(Credit: Skyler Smith)

Travel companies are also facing difficulties. For example TravelPerk switched some of its sales team employees to customer support to face the high volume of tickets due to trip cancellations.  

In parallel, numerous indicators of human presence – average noise levels, ground movement and air quality – have dropped. LA, Paris and Turin have become traffic-free overnight. Working more from home would greatly reduce the infrastructural need for commuting. Is your company ready to implement different office days policy in light of the recent work shift?

Are we ready to maintain positive changes?

Soon, it will be time to return to our offices. If we do decide to implement the best learnings from the current work situation, we might actually step into a slightly better and greener world rathe rthan go back to our routine.

The quick adaptation of companies proves that these key actors have the potential to adapt and the power to be forces for good. We will need all of those forces if we are to overcome the backdrop crisis of climate change.

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