Hero longform

Coronavirus: Can 21 companies earn hero status in a pandemic?

Faye Turner

71 min Read Time | April 27th 2020

Is it a bird, is it a plane? No it’s business!

In the wake of a global pandemic, companies from all over the world dusted off their shiny red boots, pulled on the spandex, and tightly fastened their glittery capes to become heroes of the Covid-19 crisis.

Alongside the media dominance of a devastating health emergency, company closures, and unemployment, we also read news stories about businesses from all sectors swooping in with large donations, paid sick leave, and countless initiatives.

Aiming their efforts at either tackling the coronavirus directly or making sure the lives of those affected – whether it be their employees, front line workers or everyday citizens, were in some way improved or eased during the pandemic.

On the flip side, we also saw concerning headlines and reports of those not dealing with the pandemic so well. It’s all a bit much though isn’t it? Between social distancing, self-isolation and Netflix marathons it is impossible to keep up with all the news.

Look. No. Further.

As the dust begins to settle we’re examining 21 high-impact businesses and their behavior during the pandemic, to reveal who gets hero status and who needs to try harder in the face of the real villain - coronavirus. If you want to know who truly leveraged their resources, capital, and expertise as a force for good, then this list is for you.

The pandemic is far from over, the fallout has far hit us, and the recovery is another question entirely, but let us for a moment, see which brands stepped up to the plate.

What Makes a Hero During a Pandemic?

The obvious answer to this question isn't business at all - it’s the front line workers the world over keeping the wheels turning and braving eventualities we’d all like to ignore but cannot.

However, there are other powers at play – whether we like to believe it or not businesses have a huge impact on our everyday lives in more ways than we can even recognise, and they have the ability to take action during times of difficulty – but did they use their power for good?

We don’t give out hero status lightly so what do brands have to do to get the seal of approval?

Is it a promise they made?

A message of support?

Or does it come down to their actions?

Well, we like to look at the very core - the societal impact they had and are continuing to have as we navigate our way back to normality, we need to try and think about the actual outcomes of their actions.

Did these brands have a direct and profound impact in battling against the fall-outs of Covid-19’s evil world dominance? Are their efforts large? And longstanding?

If the answer is yes, then they’ve likely been approved on our list, but not all good deeds are selfless, and not all bad deeds go unnoticed, that’s why we’re addressing the good the bad, and the ugly in our list that offers a fair balance between their heroic efforts and their less so…

Business Purpose & Priorities - People over Profit?

With that in mind we must address the fact that mostly, businesses are doing everything they can in their power to weather the storm and simply survive.

Many are still facing huge financial and operational challenges, thus it is a tricky landscape for them to navigate – but it is also an opportunity.

It is an opportunity in the sense that businesses have a chance to carve out new versions of themselves, or in the case of those already demonstrating their purpose, to solidify their position.

Allowing them to take their corporate ‘promises’ often delivered in the form of mission statements and values, and make them a reality by delivering real positive impact to society during what is turning out to be one of the most critically defining moments of our lifetime...

Indeed, the reason we focus on impact here at Impaakt is that without it, it is merely that, a set of ‘promises’, something written into the 'vision' page of a website or even in a Corporate Social Responsibility policy.

By focusing on what impact a business has, we are able to deliver a clearer understanding of what progress companies deliver through their products, operations and even their ideas, toward a better planet and society.

Without chipping into the impact bit, we’re all a bit clueless - how can we decide if we trust and advocate for a brand if we don’t know whether their core business actually delivers any good in the world?

Hence, during the time of crisis, when a spotlight is being shone on every business - what a great time to show up for the work and make good of all the promises you’ve made in the past, delivering positive, purposeful actions that translate into impact and ultimately change.

Now is such a strange and pivotal moment for our generation. It’s a moment that will also form a great deal of attitude and sentiment for those brands in years to come, making it an opportunity for them to step-up and be remembered for the way they behaved toward all of us, not just their shareholders but the world, what they do now will be remembered long after the virus has disappeared.

How does the priority list look within the corporate world when they function in an economy that rests purely on profits?

But how does the priority list look within the corporate world when they function in an economy that rests purely on their ability to make profits? When for so long, profit maximisation is number 1 with other themes such as the environment and social issues taking a backseat, especially at times of crisis.

The pandemic has attacked many businesses right at the profit epicentre which is leaving the world rightly concerned about the economic implications we are about to face, so it does beg the question then - is this economic model still 'fit for purpose'?

Well so far we can say, no, it doesn’t appear that many businesses in the world are positioned well for dealing with the turmoil of a pandemic, and surely it won’t be the last time something like this is taking down the economy - so do we need to re-look at the way things work at the most basic level?

Let’s face it, we are under no illusion that how we measure the success of a business will change any time soon, nor will the construction of our economy.

But this isn’t the first time that the basic workings of our economic system have been challenged, nor the first time that someone has said – does this really work? Or more importantly – is this sustainable?

The United Nations' (UN) draft Global Sustainable Development Report 2019 suggested we needed to make serious considerations for altering our economic systems, that it is unattainable to think we are able to maintain our level of economic growth on a planet that does not have endless resources, and that continuing to strive for economic growth in wealthy countries does not actually improve the wellbeing of those people inhabiting it.

That in fact, the speed that we produce and consume 'things' is not doing us any favours.

Well, what’s the answer then? What does a sustainable economy look like? Perhaps it comes back to priorities – and moving people to the top of that list, above profit.

Surely an economy should enable people to live #theirbestlife and not exist for the relentless pursuit of profit, which mostly makes a small number of people very, very rich and more often than not comes at the destruction of our environment.

Let’s, for a moment imagine that solution to be an impact economy, wonderfully summarised by Mckinsey here:

An impact economy is thus a very different kind of system from a traditional capitalist economy that prioritizes only financial returns."

In an impact economy, consumers and shareholders will challenge entrepreneurs and executives to show that they generate their profits in a manner that contributes to the public good.”

But it takes the work of many to transform this basic model, so it is important that we can recognise when businesses are out there playing for short term profits and using destructive means to get there, and equally important to recognise those who might be trying to change the rules of the game.

Those running a different strategy than the rest of the players could be the ones bringing a positive impact to our world.

They’re the game changers, the ones we want to hero and the ones who will ultimately be the leaders of the pack, the more we hero those players, the more likely we are to reinvent the game.

It’s also those businesses with solid values and mission-driven purposes that will be the ones you see doing good during a crisis.

Businesses have evolved to function this way, why?

These businesses have evolved to function this way, why? Because you told them to.

We are a generation that demands accountability and transparency and we want businesses to do good.

In a recent survey conducted by Edelman, researching brand trust and the coronavirus, their findings pointed to some cold hard facts about what consumers want to see from businesses during this time.

“…consumers are holding companies to very high standards – the first thing they demand of brands and their owners is for them to 'protect the well-being and financial security of their employees and suppliers, even if it means suffering big financial losses'; with 90% of global respondents supporting this statement and 52% saying brands 'must' do this to earn or keep their trust.”

It also went on to say that 71% of respondents said that if during the pandemic “they perceive that a brand is putting profit over people, they will lose trust in that brand forever.” Strong words, not to be ignored.

So in a time where everyone is watching, let's see where businesses take their behaviour, policies, products and practices, right now they need to keep their eye on building trust not only with their workforce but the wider public, and perhaps that could mean a gradual shift in the way the world operates.

Pandemic Propaganda - The new Greenwashing

To wash or not to wash, that is the question.

And we’re not talking about washing your hands, that is as must.

But a different kind of washing.

Amongst all the do-gooding could businesses be using the pandemic as an opportunity to promote and market their products and services?

Let’s talk about Greenwashing.

Every business these days has a Corporate Social Responsibly Strategy, and many are re-vamping and delivering theirs with the coronavirus in mind – great. But when is the time to talk about it?

And when is it time to stay quiet?

It’s all well and good receiving an email about how a certain company are doing ‘everything they can’ to help, but some of it is definitely bandwagon hopping in the hope that it paints their respective company in a better light, what is more concerning perhaps is taking advantage of people during a time of crisis.

We need to be careful about what is getting re-packed and re-purposed to look like a company coming to the rescue, when it could in fact be them taking advantage of a situation.

So how can we all avoid getting brainwashed? 

Well, it comes down to the evolution of Greenwashing and Wokewashing in marketing.

Greenwashing is a phrase coined to describe when businesses market themselves as sustainable or environmentally friendly when the core of their product or service is not, conveying a message that could be misleading.

Wokewashing or Socialwashing is essentially the social version of this, brands and businesses make claims in their marketing about caring for social issues like equality, equal rights, labour rights and so on, in order to gain traction and appear to be in some way contributing to a particular movement to drive sales of said product/service or improve brand equity.

But, there’s a new variation of 'washing' afoot. We call it “Pandemic Propoganda” where brands are hijacking the pandemic but offering no real value to consumers or stakeholders.

The first signs we had of this were companies reaching out, ones that we haven’t heard from in years to tell us they are ‘here for us’ during the pandemic.

Just an excuse to get in touch to remind us of X, Y Z products? Perhaps, perhaps genuine concern, but unless they have something meaningful to say about their service or product that relates to the pandemic then please, no more emails.

The second and probably more damaging than the first is when brands actively attempt to show they care without it being reflected in their core actions.

Take McDonald’s for example.
They posted on social media the iconic golden arches re-imagined: they moved them apart, which was supposed to champion social distancing, but what value did McDonald's deliver to their market?

Did they protect their workers?

Offer discounted meals?

The answer was none of the above, at the time all they did was make a snazzy post for social media.

And the media followed in rightful uproar and anger over the lack of pay they offered sick employees

We also saw highly inappropriate company wade in, as part of what is now deemed a failed publicity stunt, big tobacco company Philip Morris donated ventilators to the Greek government, a huge swash of feedback from the public came thwarting the company for trying to look gallant when their products kill over 8 million per year, their communications director also wrote a piece on LinkedIn and later appeared on Forbes, about how the pandemic was bringing people together.

Again, coming from a company that has spent the last 50 years negatively impacting the health of millions we can all agree that this was not their time to shine.

So the moral of the story?

Brands and organisations who have adopted care, trust and value as a knee jerk reaction and marketing strategy during the pandemic are not those that will come across as genuine or add any value in the long run.

Those businesses with this as an integral and longstanding approach to their customers, communications and actions are the ones we can keep listening to, just beware of any hidden agenda - there's a difference between 'doing good' and 'looking good'.

Coronavirus:21 Corporate Heroes

Can 21 high impact companies earn hero status in a crisis? Find out.

1. Inditex Social Impact and Responsibility

Industry: Fashion

With household brands such as Zara under its belt, Inditex are big fashion business. They announced net sales of €28.29 billion in 2019 and they employ over 170k people worldwide.

The Heroic:

Inditex began by turning over their supply chain to manufacture medical gear, they announced they were moving many of their resources to help the Spanish government tackle the limited supply of surgical masks and the brand is manufacturing and donating the equipment using their own materials, they expect to ship 300,000 in total.

They also put in place plans to assist with surgical gowns once they have sourced the right material, a total of 13 factories in their home territory have been making these medical supplies.

On top of this, they also worked with the Spanish authorities to bring 35 million units of medical supplies from China, later purchased by the Spanish government and other donors (including themselves). Amongst the medical gear were 21 million facemasks, 1,200 ventilators and 485,000 testing kits.

The not so heroic:

They committed to paying the salaries of employees that are no longer working due to closures until the end of April, after this time it was not publically shared whether they plan to draw on the government scheme to pay these wages or foot the bill themselves.

One thing to consider in the fashion industry is the knock-on effect this slow down in productions has on its suppliers, it is anticipated that more than 1 million workers in Bangladeshi garment factories will be unemployed as companies slow or stop orders, Inditex has confirmed they will honour payments for all orders that have been produced or are in production but can guarantee no more than that.

What are People Saying?

Verdict: As the largest fashion retailer on the planet, Inditex has clearly done a good job in the face of a crisis, producing medical equipment will have a direct impact on those tackling the virus on the front line as well as the health of their home nation. We’ll keep an eye on them in the coming months, as restrictions in Spain loosen and more workers return to work.

Hero Status: Approved
Impact Score: +0.82

2. HSBC Social Impact and Responsibility

Industry: Financial Services

The British investment back HSBC are the 7th largest bank in the world, and the largest in Europe, with total assets of US$2.558 trillion and revenue reported last year of $56.1 billion. Given the length of the pandemic, it is important for us to see how banks will support their customers and businesses, as millions face financial hardship and loss of jobs.

The Heroic:

The bank had had plans in the pipeline to cut costs and issue redundancies as per some of their competitors, but these actions were put on hold. Taken from the HSBC impact analysis regarding the postponement:

"HSBC announced the restructuring plans cutting down 35,000 jobs and cutting $4.5 billion worth of costs, similar to a few of the other players in the financial services industry such as CitiGroup and Morgan Stanley have been paused. While the Royal Bank of Scotland has gone ahead with the restructuring plan, cutting 130 jobs in their investment arm, HSBC has decided to halt any redundancies during the COVID-19 pandemic. During such a crisis as what we are facing right now, HSBC has decided to ensure their employees' comfort in the security of their jobs."

Furthermore, we saw voluntary salary cuts put into place:

"While redundancies are postponed, HSBC also announced, that the top executives; HSBC Chairman, CEO, CFO has voluntarily agreed to take a cut on their benefits, supporting the ongoing efforts fighting the pandemic. As reported, Noel Quinn (CEO) and Ewen Stevenson (CFO) will donate 25% of their salary for the next 6 months and forego their cash bonuses, totalling £1.4 million (S$2.5 million) and £800,000 respectively, while Chairman Mark Tucker will also donate his entire director's fee for 2020, amounting to £1.5 million."

Alongside the above efforts, HSBC took steps to protect their customers too, payment holidays and restructuring of mortgage payments were made available as well as relief loans for those meeting the criteria. For their business clients, loan repayment holidays were allowed as well as £8 billion in support for businesses allocated.

Finally, HSBC made a donation of $25 million, the aim of the money is to support the international medical funds, $1.75 million was given to relief efforts in China and India, $2 million to global charities coordinating the response efforts and the remainder to key locations where they consider the greatest difference can be made.

The not so Heroic:

HSBC, without notice or explanation, began to block all standing orders that were making donations to the British charity Interpal who provide humanitarian aid to Palestinians:

"HSBC has provided no explanation for canceling the payments, and admitted that such donations to the charity do not contravene “local” — British — law."
This was met with poor press coverage especially as they chose dates coming up to Ramadan to implement this block.

Verdict: The prevailing factor here is the holding of redundancies, despite the fact HSBC could have made them significant savings, by prioritising the job security of 35,000 people we think this is commendable, however, recent news suggests some top-level restructuring is going on behind closed doors and that they may indeed resume this plan with even deeper cuts. But their sizeable donations to medical funds will allow NGOs to deliver positive impact from their projects, so they are granted with hero status for now, albeit with a carefully peeled eye on things to come regarding their employee's futures.

Hero Status: Approved
Impact Score: -0.98

3. Amazon Social Impact and Responsibility

Industry: Technology & Retailing

With 750,000 employees under their belt, Amazon are ‘supplier to the world’ and with net sales of $280 billion in 2019 their major earnings come from online stores, AWS, web services and third-party seller services. As online shopping is the preferred method of choice to avoid in-store contact, Amazon play a key role in people's lives at this time.

The Heroic:

On the 27th of March Amazon committed £3.2 million to support people who are most affected by the pandemic in the UK, donating the money to the Red Cross and adding a donation button to their website to help fundraise for the Red Cross, their other commitments in Europe total €21 million to other NGO's and partners tackling the pandemic.

They have partnered with hospitals, schools and community organisations to supply Amazon devices to those in need and to help with better communication in hospitals between health care workers and patients - up to $5m dollars worth of devices in total, they also updated this again to include another $2m worth of devices to local Seattle schools and families.

Amazon recently announced that they would donate 30,000 face shields which were designed by their drone team, with more to be sold at cost on their websites.

Furthermore, they recognised the fact that many people are cooped up indoors looking for ways to entertain themselves and the family so they opened up some of their services that are usually paid for, such as free ebooks and free access to family shows via the Amazon Prime streaming service.

Amazon also announced the AWS Diagnostic Development Initiative which aims to develop faster testing units and better diagnostics for Covid-19.

The not so Heroic:

A surge in online orders meant that Amazon warehouses stayed open and work continued on for most, which meant nearly 400,000 workers still in work during the height of the pandemic. During this time employees complained about a serious shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE) and there were also complaints that no deep cleaning was being undertaken even in cases where Covid-19 have been confirmed, over 50 Amazon-owned facilities have had confirmed cases in the US, something that they failed to inform their employees of in a timely manner.

For these reasons they are being investigated by the OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

This was highlighted further by employee protests where workers pleaded to stay at home due to the lack of protection offered by Amazon with the more protests happening in May as its unlimited unpaid time-off ended in April. They are also being investigated for sacking employees who were involved in these sorts of protests.

In light of the pandemic, Amazon and their poor sick leave policy for both full time and seasonal workers has had a light shone upon it. Right now, part-time and contract workers are not receiving paid sick leave, which could lead to them endangering the health of other workers with no option but to go to work even if they feel unwell.

To add to this controversy Amazon launched an online donation scheme to fund the sick pay ‘pot’ for contract workers and seasonal employees, of which they donated $25 million dollars to. At the time of launch, they were asking the general public for donations which was hugely frowned upon given the size of their business, though the page has since been updated to make it clear that they do not expect public donations to help the fund.

What are People Saying?

As one of the richest companies in the world and a company that is actually benefiting from Covid-19 (CEO Jeff Bezos has increased his net worth by $24 billion during the pandemic), their philanthropic efforts do not seem to correlate with their earnings.

It is clear that their measures to protect employees whilst keeping up with demand is having a negative impact on the health and well being of those still working, they could be doing a lot more to protect their employees' incomes and health, whilst still serving their demands in a safe manner. On the 28th of April, they did pledge $800 million to Covid-19 safety measures, but on the 5th of May one of their Vice Presidents, Tim Bray resigned due to the sacking of whistleblowers by Amazon, only solidifying the facts about their unethical treatment of employees.

Hero Status: Denied
Impact Score: -1.74

4. McDonald's Social Impact and Responsibility

Industry: Fast Food

Fast-food giant McDonald's operates in over 100 countries, they have more than 38,000 restaurants and serve their burgers to nearly 69 million people every day. They initially pushed through, keeping restaurants and drive-throughs open in most locations, and later deciding to move to full closures or drive through only options, restaurants in the US remain largely open for business. Read about Mcdonald's sustainability below.

The Heroic:

As part of McDonald's efforts to help communities during the pandemic, a project to donate over $3.1 million worth of food to local communities was set into motion, working with long term partner Food Donation Connection (FDC) and other local organisations, this project helps to ensure any excess food is used to feed communities and families who are struggling during the pandemic.

McDonald's also begin to offer (in the US) free meals to front line health care workers, with the offer running from 22nd of April to the 5th of May.

Furthermore, in their local state of Illinois, they made a donation of 1 million N95 face masks.

The not so Heroic:

Many giants of the fast-food industry – McDonald’s, Burger King, Pizza Hut, Wendy’s, Taco Bell, Subway – do not ordinarily give their employees paid sick leave in many countries, but the virus is forcing them on to reconsider these policies, but nothing has been changed just yet.

What they did offer was a short fix, of 14 paid leave days - but only for those working at corporate-owned branches - not franchises, and franchises account for over 90% of their outlets.

McDonald’s: The fast food behemoth announced it would be providing 14 paid-leave days to employees that require quarantine, but only those who work at the company’s corporate-owned stores. McDonald’s says over 90 percent of its stores worldwide are operated by franchisees, and notes that franchisees, while required to adhere to state and local sick leave laws, are considered independent business owners. The McDonald’s Corporation can recommend sick leave policies to its franchisees, but — according to the company — the franchisees do not have to implement them.”

Passing all responsibility on to their franchises means that they are subject to state laws, leaving thousands of employees with unprotected income in the pandemic, estimated to be around 517,000 in the US alone.

For those still working in the US there has been uproar about the lack of PPE (personal protective equipment) supplied in many locations to keep their employees safe, with several locations striking about further safety concerns following employees testing positive for the virus.

What are People Saying?

Verdict: The key issue here is workers' sick pay, something that McDonalds have been quite vocal about from their head office, encouraging their franchisees to do more but not actually getting stuck into reinforcing anything. It seems there is still a lack of clear action from the top, as a stable business they could have done much more to support workers especially as they clearly state on their website that their first corporate value is “using our scale for good: good for people, for our industry, and for the planet.” Something does not add up here. Whatsmore, as restaurants start to reopen in the UK and Australia there has already been a cluster of virus cases reported having started from a McDonald's delivery driver in Melbourne, this has meant hundreds are placed on unpaid leave whilst they self isolate.

Hero Status: Denied
Impact Score: +1.74

5. Walmart Social Impact and Responsibility

Industry: Retailing

Walmart, the supermarket giant employs over 2.2 million associates worldwide and last year reported sales of over $510 billion. During the pandemic, their stores provide millions with access to food and essential goods.

The Heroic:

The Walmart foundation made a donation of $25 million on the 17th of March, of which funds were distributed to several organisations mostly focusing on food-related initiatives such as Hunger Free America, Feed America and Food and Research Action centre. $5 million of this will go to the Covid19 Solidarity Fund, a program that was set up by the UN to support the World Health Organisation that will support essential activities like getting PPC equipment to health care workers, as well as enabling countries to better track and test for the virus.

The not so Heroic:

From the outset of the virus, the lack of paid sick leave in Walmart was immediately highlighted.

“Walmart, the largest employer in America, doesn’t give its employees paid sick leave, and limits its 500,000 part-time workers to 48 hours paid time off per year. This Burring policy is now threatening countless lives. (On one survey, 88% of Walmart employees report sometimes coming to work when sick.)"

More recent changes have forced many retailers to rethink their strategy and Walmart later announced there would be changes to their policy, for example allowing employees to opt to stay home - still unpaid, and employees who contracted the virus would be allowed up to two weeks paid sick leave.

Several stores have also been shut following the death of employees after contracting the virus, with the company being criticised for not protecting employees enough nor being forthcoming about the number of cases, they are even being sued for wrongful death.

By the 27th of May, 805 workers of Walmart had reported being tested positive, and 22 deaths have been officially announced by Walmart, they are still widely criticised for their slow movement regarding PPE for their employees and stores are still regularly closing due to positive cases.

Verdict: In this instance, we again do not see the correlation of efforts to protect employees, both from a health perspective and from a financial perspective, with the capital available to the business.

“With 1.5 million workers, Walmart is the largest employer in the U.S.—and an estimated 347,000 workers at the company lack paid sick leave. As a contrast, it’s worth highlighting the sheer wealth of Walmart’s owners. The Waltons are the richest family in the U.S., worth $130 billion.”

Hero Status: Denied
Impact Score: -0.03

6. Google (Alphabet) Social Impact and Responsibility

Industry: Technology

In this case we ought to say Alphabet, the parent company of Google, they are the world's fourth-largest technology company. Their revenue in 2019 was $162 billion.

The Heroic:

From the outset Google established a Covid-19 fund that enables all temporary staff and vendors, globally, to take paid sick leave if they have potential symptoms of COVID-19, or can’t come into work because they’re quarantined. They have also made their video conferencing service, Hangouts Meet, available for all G-suite customers until July 1, 2020.

In addition to this they pledged to match donations for the COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund for the World Health Organization which is tackling the major hurdles like PPE, aid work and research. For every $1 anyone donated by April 30, Google.org donated $2, for a value of up to $5 million.

Alongside this google.org committed $100 million to several large scale projects including, relief funds, tracking of the disease, small business loans, distance learning and other humanitarian relief efforts.

Furthermore, Google also set aside $800M in ad credit and loans to help small businesses and government bodies to respond to the virus, amongst the ads donation a large portion, $250 million to be precise, goes to the World Health Organization and more than “100 government agencies around the world” that provide trustworthy information about the pandemic.

They have also committed to produce and donate 2-3 million face masks in partnership with Magid Glove & Safety that will go to the CDC foundation, as well as offering further support:

“Additionally, employees from across Alphabet, including Google, Verily and X, are bringing engineering, supply chain and healthcare expertise to facilitate increased production of ventilators, working with equipment manufacturers, distributors and the government in this effort.”

More recently Google teamed up with tech giant Apple to release software in the form of an API that allows countries to develop and release contract-tracing mobile applications.
Utilising Bluetooth technology to trace which phones had been near each other, and consequently alert users via the app should they have previously come into contact with someone who later tests positive.

The not so Heroic:

Google has an advertising platform from which it makes a large proportion of its revenue, a recent report showed that they allowed adverts claiming to have a cure to the ‘China virus.’ The ads, that were created as a test for Google's ad blocking software, were created by UK newspaper, the Telegraph, they were shown 223 times before the Telegraph paused them.

Concerns over privacy have arisen since the announcement of their collaboration with Apple regarding the virus tracking app. Jennifer Granick, the surveillance and cybersecurity counsel at the ACLU said. “People will only trust these systems if they protect privacy, remain voluntary, and store data on an individual’s device, not a centralized repository.” But Google have since tightened up the privacy policy and accelerated its completion.

They were also criticised for not supporting contract workers with the same benefits as their full-time staff.

Verdict: Google’s donations will have a positive impact in the progress toward managing the pandemic, both from a health care position with their assistance for masks and ventilators, as well as their tracking app that that launched in May in Switzerland, is still considered controversial, but ultimately could help slow down the spread of the virus with much better traceability.

We also like that they are assisting SMB’s with ad funding, despite the fact that they benefit from having the ads going through their platform, this will help businesses during a tough period.

Hero Status:
Impact Score: +0.99

7. LVMH Social Impact and Responsibility

Industry: Fashion and Retailing

Louis Vuitton Moet Hennessey are a French luxury goods group, housing brands like Louis Vuitton, Fendi and Marc Jacobs. In 2019 they recorded a revenue of $59 billion and they employ 163,000 people worldwide.

The Heroic:

As one of the first brands to step up to the bar, LVMH started using production lines that would ordinarily produce its perfumes and cosmetics to manufacture hand sanitizers. These items were donated, free of charge to French health authorities, and they are producing 12 tonnes of sanitizer per week with plans to increase to 50 tonnes per week. This transition happened within 72 hours, quite remarkable when you think how long it would usually take to get a product to market.

In addition to this, they also made a significant donation to the charity “La Fondation Hôpitaux de Paris — Hôpitaux de France (FHP-HF)” that supports 52 hospitals in France and overseas. They also made donations to the Red Cross Society of China, totalling 16 million renminbi ($2.2 million).

Louis Vuitton then re-purposed workshops in France to make facemasks and gowns, again tackling the supply issue faced by most of the world.

What’s more, LVMH also made an order of 40 million masks in collaboration with the French government, they were ordered from China, with 10 million masks having already been distributed, plus over 125,000 masks have been donated by them and their various fashion houses. They have also made a donation of 261 ventilators and over 50,000 gowns.

The not so Heroic:

LVMH officials announced initially that their employees would rely on the emergency government help scheme offered to workers unable to work at this time, however, they quickly became under scrutiny when other fashion giants such a Kering said they would not be relying on the state to fund their workers.

The initial plan to use the French government scheme, which would allow LVMH to seek help from the state but they were widely criticised, with general consensus that these schemes are in place for smaller more vulnerable businesses, not those making huge profits.

Many other fashion houses have declared they will maintain workers salaries during this period, LVMH have decided not to take the state scheme at this stage.

Verdict: LVMH and their multiple initiatives demonstrate their commitment to generating positive impact during testing times, their efforts translate into benefits for health workers and what's more, they have used their resources quickly and efficiently.

Hero Status: Approved
Impact Score: +1.83

8. L'Oréal Social Impact and Responsibility

Industry: Personal Care/Consumer Goods

Beauty and cosmetics giant L'Oréal own many household names such as Maybelline New York, Lancôme, Giorgio Armani and Ralph Lauren to name just a few, last year they reported sales of €29.87 billion. 

So, how does L'Oreal's sustainability score?

The Heroic:

During the pandemic L'Oréal formed a partnership along with Essity and Reckitt Benckiser, both consumer healthcare manufacturers, to create a ‘shop responsibly campaign’ targeted at educating and informing consumers to shop carefully and stay safe during the pandemic.

More direct action was taken on the 18th of March when the group’s factories ramped up their production to manufacture significant quantities of hand sanitizer to support the requirements of the French and European health authorities.

The brand La Roche-Posay and Garnier began to distribute hand sanitizer free of charge to partner hospitals, pharmacies and food distribution centres.

Garnier supplied and distributed several million units of this hand sanitizer free-of-charge to all its European food distribution customers so that employees, who are continuing to work to meet consumers’ basic needs, can protect themselves by following the recommended precautions. They also shortened their payment terms with suppliers to help their cash flow situations.

In total, they have committed to shipping 1 million 20-millilitre bottles and more than 5 million 75 and 100-milliliter tubes of Hand Purifying Gel, with a commitment of over 60,000 litres in India.

Furthermore, L'Oréal also set up a Coronavirus Solidarity Program, extending from Europe to the US to support the fight against coronavirus which included a €1 million donation to its partner non-profits, $250,000 to US organisation ‘Feeding America,' donations of personal care products with a value of approximately $1 million and an unspecified number of N95 facemasks.

In the UK and Ireland, they donated 10,000 examination gloves to the London Ambulance Service through the L’Oréal Young Scientist Centre at the Royal Institute.

Moreover, L’Oréals sustainability was positively impacted when they joined The European Alliance for Green Recovery, which aims to ensure the economic recovery from the pandemic is a green one, helping focus efforts on growing low carbon industries.

Finally, they announced a €150 million social and environmental protection initiative called "L’Oréal for the Future" addressing those vulnerable to the impacts of the pandemic as well as supporting environmental initiatives via impact investing to ensure a sustainable recovery. From their press release:

"to create a philanthropic endowment fund of 50 million euros to support non-profit organisations that help women all over the world who are in highly vulnerable situations, victims of the social and economic crisis;

to reaffirm its commitment to the environment and to sustainable development by creating an impact investing fund of 100 million euros for the regeneration of damaged natural ecosystems and for combating climate change."


The series of measures implemented by L'Oréal and the brands within their group are another great example of what can be done, pivoting manufacturing quickly with the resources at hand in the face of a crisis. We particularly applaud their forward-thinking plans for a green recovery and supporting those impacted by the pandemic.

Hero Status: Approved
Impact Score: +2.72

9. Facebook Social Impact and Responsibility

Industry: Technology

The American media tech firm makes most of their revenue selling ads on their social platform, last year making over $70 billion dollars. During the quarantine, many people will be spending more time on social, will Facebook be using their platform for good? Let’s discuss Facebook sustainability.

The Heroic:

The first challenge for Facebook was misinformation, Facebook began to tackle the issue by removing claims that 5g caused Covid-19, and taking what they considered to be ‘aggressive steps’ to remove the damaging posts and better connect people with resources from the NHS instead. Their strategy to shield users from harmful content and connect them with credible information extended over their other popular platforms including Instagram, WhatsApp and Messenger.

Moreover, Facebook started to alert any users that may have interacted with any harmful misinformation, directing them to the World Health Organisation's page.

Facebook also launched a fundraiser on their site to donate directly to the COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced.

The company committed a total of $20 million to fight the outbreak, dedicating $10 million toward matching donations for the Solidarity Fund, and $10 million to match donations to an upcoming fundraiser held by the CDC Foundation. They also gave away 720,000 masks that had been gathered after the wildfires in California.

Facebook also started asking users to respond to a survey in order to track potential cases and survey users symptoms in partnership with Carnegie Mellon University. This was part of their wider 'Data for Good' program which aims to share, responsibly, the data they have for their users to push forward humanitarian efforts:

"As part of this, in 2019 Facebook developed a Disease Prevention Maps tool, aimed at understanding the spread of a virus and its epicenters through studying people's locations, routes and encounters. (...) over the last few months Facebook has shared global users' data - in summarized and anonymous form - with over 20 research institutes and universities, that are all part of the COVID-19 Mobility Data Network, and a number of nonprofits such as Direct Relief, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the World Bank, thus supported health authorities in finding answers to important questions such as "where do we need extra test facilities" or "where do we need extra beds".

In March Facebook announced that they would be giving $1000 bonuses to employees working from home to help with any hardship they may have encountered during the pandemic, as well as ensuring all contract workers were paid in full even if they were not working.

On top of this Facebook donated over 2,000 devices to the UK health service the NHS, the portal screens will allow better communication between patients and nurses as well as family members unable to visit loved ones.

Verdict: With these efforts, Facebook are using their reach and knowledge as a force for good, some may argue that their previous management of privacy could cause concern with regard to their symptom tracker, however, it is clear to see that these efforts are driven by the mission to help fight the pandemic and not at their own benefit. This sort of collaboration is needed to help accelerate our means of understanding and tracking the virus better and Facebook are well-positioned to offer thorough data on that topic.

Hero Status: Approved
Impact Score: -0.54

10. Starbucks Social Impact and Responsibility

Industry: Food and Beverage

With a revenue of $26.51 billion last year it is clear to see that people love their coffee, but with closures all over the world, how did Starbucks fare in the face of the virus? 

Read about Starbucks sustainability and Starbucks corporate social responsibility below.

The Heroic:

Starbucks joined the support for the ‘Feeding America’ campaign, stating that during the closures of their restaurants in March they donated nearly 700,000 meals. Their sizable donations came as part of 'The Starbucks Foundation' program, which they state is aiding 'global community response efforts, providing hunger relief and supporting our front-line responders.' To date the total support currently sits at $8.5 million.

Starbucks have continued to pay staff for 30 days during closures, in a strategy that ensured no one who was sick would come to work due to potential financial loss, this was implemented alongside their basic sick pay and a new ‘service pay’ that gave workers an additional $3 per hour for shifts worked in the same 30-day period.

Starbucks also expanded its Care@Work program, which gives support for childcare during the period of school closures, this policy provides parents with 20 days of backup care, and the option to use out-of-network caregivers, with a reimbursement of up to $125 per day.

As the pandemic unfolded, Starbucks immediately addressed the distress of their employees through the “Starbucks Global Partner Emergency Relief Program.” For those facing hardship, this gives their employees vital access to financial support.

Verdict: Starbucks sustainability actions show they have aligned their values of ‘Creating a culture of warmth and belonging, where everyone is welcome,’ by offering essential support for workers through the sizeable force of The Starbucks Foundation' that is still reaching out to communities in need during a testing period, a good example to follow.

Hero Status: Approved

Impact Score: +0.80

11. Apple Social Impact and Responsibility

Industry: Technology

The tech behemoth is known all over the world for its gadgets, now has 2.4 billion active devices in the world and last year reported revenue of $260 billion.

The Heroic:

Apple’s first efforts came through donations, having confirmed that they would donate 30 million facemasks to US workers and making commitments to helping some of the hardest-hit areas in Europe with millions more in the pipeline, furthermore they decided to work with their supply chain to produce other medical supplies.

"Our teams at Apple have been working to help source supplies for healthcare providers fighting COVID-19," Cook wrote on Twitter. "We're donating millions of masks for health professionals in the US and Europe. To every one of the heroes on the front lines, we thank you."

Since the start of the pandemic, Apple have made financial donations which they last confirmed sat at $15 million dollars.

Apple announced early on that they would continue to pay full wages to Apple retail and service employees despite store closures, and when retail stores were still open during the early stages of the pandemic, they were ensuring there was unlimited sick leave for all workers.

Outside of looking after workers and making donations, Apple teamed up with Google to collaboratively bring a contact tracing app that will track and monitor those who become infected with the virus in order to slow the spread, see the Google section for more on this.

They have also announced that a percentage of the sales form their ‘Red’ product range will go to the Covid-19 relief fund.

Verdict: Apple attacked the crisis from all angles, using their resources to deliver a positive impact on employee's lives by supporting them in a difficult time, in addition to donating large funds to help communities and organisations. Coupled with their tech innovations to work on prevention of the disease, Apple demonstrated a clear ability to collaborate and make a difference.

Hero Status: Approved
Impact Score: +0.39

12. Disney Social Impact and Responsibility

Industry: Entertainment

Disney, are the world's biggest entertainment group, with TV networks, film studios, hotels, streaming services, resorts and theme parks in their repertoire. They generated nearly $70 billion in revenue last year, but the pandemic has forced them to close their hotels and parks.

The Heroic:

Disney’s first move was to donate more than 100,000 medical supplies, with included items like protective shoes and masks, to their local region in France, these were then distributed to hospitals, in coordination with a donation of 77 tonnes of food and drink to the local French Red Cross and other associations tackling hunger and disadvantaged families. In the US they donated 100,000 N95 masks.

In March Walt Disney said its executive chairman Bob Iger would give up his entire salary during the pandemic while chief executive Bob Chapek will take a 50% pay cut. Iger is one of highest-paid executives in the entertainment sector, earning $47.5m last year.

Disney created a line of non-medical facemasks, of which they have pledged to donate up to $1 million of the profits to MedShare, they also pledged a further $1 million to the charity, who are focusing on humanitarian aid to those impacted by the pandemic.

The Not So Heroic:

On the 19th of April Disney announced that 100,000 workers will not be paid by them taking the decision to furlough them, thus they will be relying on the government fund to pay employees which could have serious effects on what is ‘left in the pot’ for other businesses, by doing so they will save $50 million per month according to the Financial Times.

Disney have seen some upside during the pandemic, their new streaming service has amassed over 50 million subscribers in just 5 months and they have also kept in place their executive compensation program whilst there are 100,000 workers unpaid by them, the decision to furlough employees whilst their top executives continue on with what is often deemed 'excessive pay' has brought them a lot of criticism.

“One reason Disney is coming under scrutiny is its record of providing lavish rewards for its top brass, such as Mr Iger, who before the crisis had earned about $716m in cash, stock and options gains since becoming chief executive in 2005, according to S&P Global data. Mr Iger has given up the remainder of his $3m base salary for 2020. But his performance-related incentives, worth more than $40m for Mr Iger last year, remain in place — even if many of those criteria will now be harder to achieve.” (Source FT )

Verdict: Whilst everyone could use a little more 'fairytale' and a little less ‘nightmare’ during the pandemic, the decision not to pay workers, amidst the upside Disney were seeing for their streaming services, and the enormous pay packets still being paid to executives, their actions to not support their workers does not seem at all consistent with the family brand they present to the public and therefore has a negative impact on Disney’s sustainability.

Hero Status: Denied
Impact Score: +0.36

13. Nestlé Social Impact and Responsibility

Industry: Food and Drink

Nestlé are a household name, with over 2,000 brands in 180 countries, they are the largest food and beverage company in the world and reported revenue of 92.6CHF billion in 2019.

The Heroic:

Nestlé began the pandemic with a CHF 10 million donation to their partner IRFC (International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies). On top of this donation, they gave medical nutrition products and bottled water to communities in need and committed their logistics capabilities to support the IFRC. They also committed to matching like for like, any donations made by employees to the foundation.

Furthermore, Nestlé’s sustainability was shown when they offered guarantees to workers, with all hourly and salaried employees affected by closures or work stoppages being paid in full for a minimum of 12 weeks.

These activities were complemented by their work with trade unions in the UK and Ireland to protect employees that are still working whilst meeting the demands of government guidelines and consumer needs.

Nestlé also went to their customers and suppliers and offered support, for example with their “Always open for you" initiative, they extended payment terms and paused coffee machine rental fees, the value of this initiative alone is expected to be over CHF 500 million, they also committed to agreed volumes in the dairy sector to ensure their supplier's livelihoods were not negatively impacted.

Verdict: Nestlé have stepped up to help as many touchpoints as they can during the pandemic. We can see positive actions and impact for their employees, supply chains and customers. They continue to meet the demands of consumers for both their essential and non-essential products and their philanthropic and operational actions reflect well, their vision: "Nestlé's purpose is enhancing quality of life and contributing to a healthier future."

Hero Status:
Impact Score: +0.78

14. Coca-Cola Social Impact and Responsibility

Industry: Food and Beverage

Known for their sugary sweet drinks, Coca-Cola have been going since 1892, but it isn't just coke on the menu anymore, they have over 500 brands and operate in 200 countries. Net revenue last year was reported at $37.27 billion. 

Read about Coca-Cola sustainability below.

The Heroic:

The first visible action we saw from Coca-Cola sustainability values was their decision to shut off their marketing campaigns and channel the money they would have spent into Covid-19 relief efforts.

“Operating groups are redeploying ad spending to supply healthcare workers and vulnerable communities with medical equipment, beverages, food and other critical supplies.”

We also saw them pivot to produce hand sanitizer that was planned to be donated to nursing homes and hospitals, first to do this was their concentrate facility in France that answered a government call for assistance, 6 tons in total are being donated in the Var region of France.

Coca-Cola then pledged to keep on all staff despite the down-turn in sales.

By the 27th of April, their commitments summed $100 million globally, which encompassed donations, grants ($39 million in grants in 74 countries ) and projects plus their giving of advertising space to NGO and public health authorities to use for communications about safety during the pandemic.

Their bottling partner has also demonstrated that their employees are a priority at this time:

"Hindustan Coca-Cola Beverages (HCCB) Private Limited, which runs 15 factories across the country, has surprisingly decided to hike the salaries of its 7,000 direct employees by 7-8%, effective April 2020. It has also announced that there will be no lay-offs and salary reductions for the others."

Their other bottling partners, Liberty Coca-Cola Beverages donated 5,000 N95 and K95 masks and more than 12,000 cases of beverages to hospitals in the northeast of America.

Moreover, they made solid commitments to employees in distribution centres continuing to work, implementing temperature taking stations and offering alcohol wipes and hand sanitizers as well as ensuring governmental guidelines were met.

The not so Heroic

Coca-Cola chose to furlough some employees where necessary but does not give the full number of how many employees or in which areas, they say they are re-distributing employees too.

Verdict: From a company that is usually under pressure from an environmental pollutant perspective, Coca-Cola have made some generous donations to fuel pandemic relief programs where they can.

Hero Status: Approved
Impact Score: -0.54

15. MasterCard Social Impact and Responsibility

Industry: Financial Services

Mastercard and their payment services are used by millions all over the world, last year they reported revenue of $16.8 billion.

The Heroic:

During the first few weeks of the health crisis, Mastercard committed to $25 million in seed funding for the COVID-19 Therapeutics Accelerator, a program that aims to accelerate the development of a treatment. They join The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the UK government on this project.

Mastercard have also pledged to give $250 million in support over the next 5 years for small businesses affected by the pandemic, which includes access to technology, finance and product support.

Furthermore the decision to suspended changes to payment claim windows giving customers more time to dispute payments, the window was due to be shortened but has since been suspended till mid-July.

Following recommendations from WHO to avoid exchanges in cash Mastercard upped the spending limit for contactless payments in some regions and called on others that have not yet done so to do the same, aiming to help slow the spread by decreasing that element of person to person contact.

Following up on their initial $250 million support pledge, and in the light of what is a foreseeable economic crisis, Mastercard addressed these economic concerns by:

“pledging to bring a total of 1 billion people and 50 million micro and small businesses into the digital economy by 2025. As part of this effort, there will be a direct focus on providing 25 million women entrepreneurs with solutions that can help them grow their businesses.”

Verdict: Mastercards efforts are focused on building an inclusive recovery from the coronavirus, focusing on the future is equally important and by leveraging on their reach and technology Mastercard is delivering significant impact to communities all over the globe in both the short and long term.

Hero Status: Approved
Impact Score: +2.42

16. Procter and Gamble Social Impact and Responsibility

Industry: Personal Products

The consumer goods giant, recognised for its household brands (think Ariel, Charmin, Crest Toothpaste, Fairy, Oral B, Olay and Pampers) have seen a surge in product demand during the pandemic. Last year they reported sales of $67.7 billion.

The Heroic:

As a global company, P&G has made donations via their various business arms all over the world. Millions of products are set to be donated from 30 brands in more than 30 countries through partnerships with NGO’s. They are also looking after their employees with protective equipment, temperature scans and more.

One of the many brands under the P&G umbrella, Vicks, who provide cough and cold products, has donated $1 million to Direct Relief, one of the largest medical relief organisations, the money is set to go toward protective equipment for health care workers as well as medical equipment like ventilators.

P&G also committed to making hand sanitizer and facemasks, many will be used to protect employees in order to keep up with demand pressures, but others will be donated to health authorities and relief organizations, 100,000 masks have been donated so far and they expect to produce 45,000 liters of hand sanitizer per week globally.

Furthermore, P&G Canada announced on the 20th of April that they would donate over $2.5 million in hygiene products to support frontline workers in Canada.

Verdict: In a time of heightened awareness for personal hygiene, P&G stepped into action to deliver their products under pressure without compromising employee safety, their efforts to make significant contributions to projects fighting the pandemic will no doubt lead to a positive impact on the health of communities all over the world.

Hero Status: Approved

Impact Score: +0.90

17. Wells Fargo Social Impact and Responsibility

Industry: Financial Services

Wells Fargo is an American financial services company and is the fourth largest bank in the world, in 2019 their revenue was reported at $85.06 billion.

The Heroic:

Wells Fargo employ approximately 260,000 people and they have committed to supporting them during this time, taken from the impact analysis:

“The company is paying a special compensation to its front-line workers, approximately 170,000 U.S. and international employees. The special payment, $200 per day is paid for branch workers, call-center staff and technology specialists and others who are required to risk their health. Further, the full-time employees (whose annual salary is less than $100,000) would receive a pre-tax payment of $600 and part-time employees would get a $300 bonus.

A range of medical support measures, including Medical Virtual Office visits (telehealth), paid leaves, work-from-home facilities are provided for the employees as well, being a comfort for them during the COVID-19 pandemic, making a very significant positive impact on their lives.”

During this period of turmoil, the bank also confirmed that they will allow payment suspensions for those experiencing financial hardship, as well as waiving any late fees and ensuring their data is not reported to credit bureaus and damaging customers credit.

In addition to this, they announced that they would make a donation of $175 million, which would be spread across several projects. The first being housing stability helping homeowners and renters stay in their homes through foreclosure prevention, helping small businesses through flexible capital and cash boosts and grants to help improve the financial health of those families and individuals whose incomes have been impacted by the pandemic.

The Not so Heroic:

Wells Fargo are amongst a group of the large banks that have been accused of unfairly allocating money given to them via government stimulus for small businesses, having added their own set of parameters, making them more difficult for small businesses to get:

“These banks last week, at such a critical moment, gathered together and decided to slow things down. They limited loans only to customers and credit cardholders. They came up with “new” lending requirements and asked for more documentation over and above SBA guidelines. They capped the amount of loans they would make. The rules aren’t clear, they cried, and we have to work harder!”

Source: The Guardian

They are now part of a lawsuit issued by a handful of small businesses claiming they unfairly processed the Paycheck Protection Program.

Verdict: Could this have been the big banks time to shine? Time to transform public opinion and do nothing but good in the face of a crisis? From the subsequent lawsuits, once again profits over people has been the order of choice, which unfortunately taints all the good initiatives and donations they implemented.

Hero Status: Denied

Impact Score: +1.27

18. Nike Social Impact and Responsibility

Industry: Apparel

With sales last year of $39.1 billion, Nike has been declared the most valuable apparel brand on the planet. Let's see if Nike can 'just do it’ when it comes to their coronavirus response.

The Heroic:

Nike have always been a creative brand when it comes to their products and marketing, and their solution for assistance during the crisis was no less creative. Nike’s social responsibility included transforming their Nike Air shoes and apparel lines into protective face shields for front line workers, the results of the creation have been donated to multiple states in the US.

Nike social responsibility also led them to commit $17.5 million to Covid-19 response efforts, funds are being directed to the Wolrd Health Organisation as well as localised efforts where their employees reside in locations around the world. This included a large donation in March 2020 of $15 million dollars to the city of Memphis, $250 000 dollars of this amount was given to the Mid-South Food Bank to serve low-income citizens during the crisis.

Nike’s sustainability was also shown through theirdonations which included 250,000 facemasks in New York. Along with 140,000 pieces of footwear, apparel and equipment all over the world.

Outside of donations and PPE Nike continued their message to stay active but also to encourage the world to stay inside, with their marketing campaign
“If you ever dreamed of playing for millions around the world, now is your chance.”
Aimed at encouraging everyone to #playinside and #playfortheworld. This coincides with their collaboration with the World Health Organisation who launched a physical activity guide to compliment their #healthyathome campaign, with Nike helping them formulate the content.

Furthermore, Nike’s social responsibility ensured that employees working in stores that had closed would still be paid during these closures.

Verdict: Nike has struck a good balance in their communications during the pandemic, whilst they could have been perceived that their #playfortheworld campaign was purely for their own benefit, it was delivered with value and authenticity, encouraging people to stay home and offering customers the benefits of home workouts through their applications. Nike’s core purpose of 'keeping people active' is working and people around the globe recognise the brands' presence in a positive way during a tough time.

Hero Status: Approved

Impact Score: +1.66

19. Danone Social Impact and Responsibility

Industry: Food Processing

With over 100,000 employees around the world, the European and American food corporation sold products in 120 countries around the world in 2018. Danone reported net sales of €25.3 billion in 2019.

The Heroic

Since the beginning of the pandemic in January, the company made changes to their factories and manufacturing premises to ensure social distancing measures were in place, they also allowed remote working for those who were able to. Danone put in place a central crisis committee to lead their response using learnings from China.

Regarding their employees, Danone guaranteed all employment contracts and wages for 100,000 employees worldwide until June 30th. The group also announced a specific bonus for employees working on-site during the pandemic. Moreover, financial support of € 300M will be granted to the 15,000 small businesses in the company’s global ecosystem (farmers, suppliers, service providers).

Danone has also committed to different initiatives worldwide in order to help fight the pandemic. Among others, Danone has provided 100,000 bottles of Evian to improve the availability of hydro alcoholic gel in pharmacies in France.

Danone Mexico made yogurt donations to healthcare professionals. Their Evian water brand is also supporting front line workers in hospitals with a donation of 195,000 bottles of Evian. Danone Canada has contributed $200,000 CAD to an emergency fund established by their 25-year partner, Breakfast Club of Canada, to help feed hungry children. Danone US’ Happy Family donated 140,000 servings of organic food and snacks to families in need in New York City area.

Verdict: Although some employees have complained of a lack of masks and protective equipment in Danone’s warehouses near Paris, the company has negotiated with the unions to find a compromise and agreed to support their employees more during the pandemic. We can see that they have shown a strong reactivity in order to ensure the supply of essential products and despite the uncertainty and a potential decrease in sales due to the crisis, they have committed to an important number of concrete initiatives worldwide to fight the virus.

Hero Status: Approved
Impact Score: +2.45

20. Tesla Social Impact and Responsibility

Industry: Automobiles

Switching ‘gear’ to another car manufacturer and clean energy company Tesla, they generated sales of over $24.6 billion in 2019.

The Heroic:

Despite a lot of information on twitter regarding Tesla's production of ventilators and a small number of CPAP machines being donated to a local hospital, there is no solid information or commitment from the brand on any of their sites regarding any donations. Early in April, their team posted a video on YouTube regarding a ventilator that had been created out of Tesla parts, nothing yet has been delivered though.

The not so Heroic:

As the initial lockdown came into action Tesla were required to close many of their manufacturing plants, the company announced that they would be cutting pay and furloughing many employees relying on the government to fund these employees with the pay cut expected to last till the end of June.
The second news that was announced was that any contract work they had in place would be paused, meaning any temporary workers, hundreds at the time, would be let go.

Tesla’s CEO, Elon Musk also caught the attention of the media, by seemingly dismissing the national emergency, saying that the quarantine was ‘fascist’ and has been highly critical of many of the steps the government were taking to shut down non-essential businesses to stop the spread of the virus. Tesla have now gone on to sue local authorities.

Verdict: Elon Musk's comments regarding the coronavirus could have a significant impact on many people's willingness to follow the guidelines of the WHO and the government, casting doubt in the mind of millions whether or not the lockdown was the right approach. Musk is widely criticised for his approach, especially for the misinformation he gave to many regarding treatments. In this case, the safety of the people is not coming before profits and we can see very little regarding their assistance during the pandemic, disappointing for a company that strives to deliver innovation.

Hero Status:

Impact Score: +1.09

21. 3M Social Impact and Responsibility

Industry: Specialty Industrial Machinery

With over 60,000 different products in the field of worker safety, US health care, and consumer goods, 3M ranked number 95 in the Fortune 500 list of the largest United States corporations by total revenue. Sales in 2019 hit $32.1 billion.

The Heroic

Being perfectly positioned to produce the exact equipment required to tackle a pandemic, 3M went straight into manufacturing overdrive, they announced that since January 2020 they doubled their production of N95 masks to 1.1 billion per year. Moreover, 3M announced they will double production again within 12 months to achieve a capacity of 2 billion respirators per year. They have invested over $80 million to ramp up production to this scale.

3M also made significant donations to several funds totalling $20 million:

In March 2020, they also launched a hotline and website to help identify and fight fraud, price gouging and counterfeiting of 3M respirators.

On that note, in April 2020 3M filed multiple lawsuits against alleged price-gougers in the US and Canada, while partnering with state attorney generals, and state and federal law enforcement to stop fraud, price-gouging, and counterfeits of 3M respirators.

3M is also working with government agencies and distributors to send 90% of its 116.5 million respirators imported from their China facilities, to healthcare facilities and first responders. They were awarded two government contracts to produce and ramp up the production of these masks.

The not so Heroic

The first controversy arose because 3M were distributing masks overseas whilst the US was suffering the highest peak in Covid-19 infections with a mask shortage at play. The Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator, Pete Gaynor, stated that the administration would enforce the Defence production act to: "use any and all authority available under the Act to acquire, from any appropriate subsidiary or affiliate of 3M Company, the number of N-95 respirators that the Administrator determines to be appropriate."

3M said that, while they looked forward to working with the FEMA: "there are, however, significant humanitarian implications of ceasing respirator supplies to healthcare workers in Canada and Latin America, where we are a critical supplier of respirators."

The mask manufacturer has also been frowned upon for how their respirators were allocated. Billionaire Mark Cuban was trying to support healthcare workers by getting more protective equipment, and criticized the company at the end of March:
"3M lists all its distributors online, the ones buying and selling these things, and these distributors are making as much money as they possibly can […] it's wrong, it's criminal."

The director of the Florida Division of Emergency Management has also attacked 3M’s distribution system in a series of Tweets.

Other experts nuanced 3M’s responsibility. In fact, Tamer Abdouni, the founder of a firm accelerating global trade, was able to acquire 3M respirator masks for $1.25 in January 2020. More recently, through a succession of brokers, masks‘ prices have been multiplied by five. “The problem is there are so many middlemen buying these products and reselling them,” says Abdouni, who works with buyers in the U.S. and other countries. “You can’t pinpoint who is to blame.”

Further controversy over their transparency and pricing has come into question with remarks made regarding what 3M charged the government in the past, making taxpayers concerned they will be overpaying for crucial equipment as part of the government contract 3M have been awarded. Taken from the article:

"The company that has been awarded the largest single COVID-19 federal contract once boasted it charged the Defense Department $7.63 for earplugs that cost 85 cents a pair to produce.

That company, 3M, was awarded a $1 billion contract on April 15 for “medical and surgical instruments, equipment and supplies,” by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

(...) What 3M is charging the U.S. government per mask is not publicly available, and 3M would not provide either its production price per mask nor its selling price per mask to the government, to McClatchy."

Verdict: The significant commitment from 3M from a manufacturing perspective and their partnering with the US government demonstrates a clear desire to help during the pandemic. But it seems they have more work to do on distribution to ensure pricing remains fair and transparent.

Hero Status: Denied
Impact Score: +1.54

What's Next?

How can companies move forward, recover and recalibrate in a post-pandemic world?

As business leaders now start the tricky task of navigating some sort of recovery, what will be the new norm for business?

Following the worldwide disruption of the pandemic, piecing back together organisations will involve the re-thinking of supply chains and logistics, reimagining the future of work, human resources, digitalisation, and understanding the post-covid-19 consumer and what their new set of values might be.

The implications for businesses are large and widely unknown, with this and the growing pressure to thrive in a new world, many with hero status on our list today may slip and lose their way and others may find ways to redeem themselves.

It's all fluid, the impact of a business is ever-evolving with every move they make. We hope that brands will reinvigorate themselves with purposeful marketing, mission lead business actions and impact orientated projects.

In fact, these strategies should become, if they are not already, mainstream business practice for those seeking to deliver more than just a profit recovery, but a long term strategy that sets a business up for the future and gives them an advantage over their competition.

Without this drive to deliver a purposeful, positive impact in the months to come, how well-positioned will businesses be to thrive in our new reality?

The answer is simple - those who pay it forward will be remembered for just that.

Will we remember if they hit their end of year numbers?


Will we remember more about how they managed their workers or the support they gave appropriate funds?

I like to think the latter holds a higher priority in the human race's mind.

Perhaps if the answer to this question is that you'd rather a business hit their end of year profit targets, it is us that ought to question why we reward such a model. A model that glorifies profits over people, dividends and share prices over society and revenues over rainforests.

Can't they all work in harmony together?

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Playing your Part

As we can see by the 21 corporate cases in this article, many businesses acted quickly, using their agility to reimagine what they do and how they do it. It demonstrates what can be done when the time calls for it and also shows that looking beyond shareholder value can reap benefits for a brand and their identity as an organisation.

Let this be a reminder for all of us, of how such a moment in time brought out the good in these businesses - and in some cases the bad.

In the same way that we hero those front line workers, activists and environmentalists, let's do the same for businesses. Advocate for those making a positive impact, and remove yourself where you can from those having a negative impact, always look for those able to demonstrate their long term values and not merely their ability to generate profit.

Because after all, they ARE listening to us, change can be effective if enough of us are aware of the facts and use this awareness to change our habits and advocacy.

Holding those companies accountable for the good and the bad in their products, actions, ideas and impact is progress.

Our change in behaviour can incite their change, and thus an impact economy seems all the more attainable.

Over to you...

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