Five Ways Businesses are Stepping Up to Help Their Communities

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It would appear that the coronavirus outbreak has underscored a universal truth about human nature: in the most extreme circumstances, humanity’s best and worst qualities come to the fore. Doubtless, selfishness and irrationality have been on full display, but there is little point in rehashing what most of us have (or haven’t) seen down the aisles of our supermarkets. 

Instead, we celebrate the businesses that are rolling up their sleeves to aid in the fight against COVID-19. Some are taking monumental steps, while others have simply dedicated themselves to alleviating the suffering of those around them.

All across the globe, businesses are offering to cover wages and extend benefits to workers who have been sidelined by the momentary shutdown of our society. Some of the major tech and social media companies including Facebook, Cisco and Amazon have either created dedicated foundations or promised millions in relief funding.

Then, there are also those transforming the very nature of their businesses to join the front lines. It is with all of these pioneers in mind that we highlight five ways that businesses are stepping up to help their communities in the fight against COVID-19.

The Promise to Produce Desperately Needed Ventilators

 While it is still only a verbal commitment, if tech-scion Elon Musk follows through on his promise to start producing ventilators a critical life-saving piece of equipment in the fight against COVID-19 his efforts might prove immensely impactful. Musk, of course, is the CEO of Tesla and SpaceX, best known for manufacturing electric vehicles and space transportation solutions.

On March 18th, Musk tweeted that his factories would be repurposed to produce ventilators in the event of a shortage brought on by the pandemic. That offer drew an immediate response from many who urged him to follow the dig-your-well-before-you’re-thirsty adage and start that process immediately.

Free Pizza for Employees’ Families and Hospital Workers

Michael Lastoria is the founder and CEO of &Pizza, based out of Washington, DC and New York. &Pizza has 40 restaurants in six NE states. In an email to everyone in his organisation, Lastoria announced that he would raise the hourly wage by $1/hr and offer benefits his staff did not have previously.

What sets his business apart, however, is the commitment to make unlimited free pizzas available for all of their 750 employees and their immediate families as well as any hospital worker who shows valid credentials. He has also made delivery free for all customers.

To deal with the labour shortage this new policy will likely create, Lastoria is shutting down &Pizza’s corporate offices and moving all 50 of his executives and support staff to their restaurants. Lastoria himself will be making pizzas in New York and Washington.

Protective Mask Production/Donations

Surgical and industrial masks are proven to help stop the spread of the virus, which is why they are in such short supply around the globe. One Latvian-based factory is transforming its sewing operations to produce three-layered surgical masks.

Tonus Elast in the coastal area of Liepāja is producing the masks not as a profit-making endeavour but as a social project. Because the masks are hand-sewn, they can only produce 1,000 per day although they are calling on other nearby factories to join them in their efforts.

A Boston-area construction company is also responding by donating industrial masks. Suffolk Construction will donate more than 1,250 N95 masks to the hospital network Mass General Brigham to help protect patients and medical personnel during the crisis. Like Tonus Elast, Suffolk Construction is calling on their colleagues to join them as well.

Community Kitchens 

In early March, Los Angeles chef José Andrés used his culinary skills to feed cruise ship passengers quarantined as a result of their travels. More recently he announced the transformation of eight of his restaurants in New York and Washington, DC into community kitchens.

At those locations, Chef Andrés will prepare to-go meals at $7 each for those who can afford it, while others who may be struggling financially will have the option to pay what they can. Andrés is the face of ThinkFoodGroup, a brand with several restaurants, hotels and catering services, well-known for their food-related philanthropy.

Hand Sanitiser Production

Washed or disinfected hands are the first line of defence against the spread of coronavirus, which is why hand sanitiser is becoming harder and harder to find. To help replenish depleted stocks, several companies are transforming their production facilities into hand sanitiser factories.

French perfume maker LVMH, best-known for producing fragrances from Christian Dior, Givenchy and Guerlain, recently announced that they would start manufacturing no-name hand sanitiser. LVMH has made its intentions clear: this is social responsibility, not a for-profit venture.

Several breweries and distilleries are also getting in on the action, given their ready supply of grain alcohol, a key component in hand-sanitiser. For example, the Cedar Ridge Winery and Distillery in Iowa is teaming up with lip balm manufacturer Eco Lips Inc. to combine equipment and supplies to produce hand sanitiser. Eco Lips and Cedar Ridge will give these products away for free to anyone who needs them.