Article written by Jonathan Nelson
Amidst the global spread of COVID-19, also widely known as the novel coronavirus, virtually every stakeholder in the global economy has experienced sudden, dramatic effects and changes, including families, businesses from large corporations to small- and medium-sized enterprises, governments, and civil society. To alleviate the significantly volatile and vulnerable economic situation brought about by the global pandemic, several international companies and individuals across nearly every sector are taking a wide range of measures and engaging in voluntary initiatives to help alleviate the effects of the unprecedented global circumstances.
Given the importance and relevance of these efforts, Constella’s team of analysts has researched and compiled a selection of international best practices carried out by companies, non-profits, and individuals both at a global level and in specific national contexts. As reflected in further detail below, our analysts have observed three principal lines of action which are common across the majority of sectors:
• Economic donations towards the research and development of treatments and vaccines for COVID-19 and the procurement of highly demanded and much-needed medical equipment.
• Modifications of companies’ productive priorities to adapt to the most urgent global, regional, and local needs arising from the COVID-19 crisis.
• Efforts to go above and beyond with the goal of ensuring the best quality of attention and services for customers facing a diverse range of economically and socially vulnerable circumstances at present.
• At the global level, the World Economic Forum has announced the creation of the “COVID Action Platform”, a space to facilitate the engagement and involvement of the business community with the goal of protecting employment, supporting continuity of business activity, and expediting the collective response to COVID-19.
• In Chile, a “Private Emergency Fund for Health” coordinated by the ‘Confederation of Production and Trade’ and in collaboration with the Chilean authorities has been created with the objective of meeting the most urgent needs of the health crisis. So far, Agrosuper, Carozzi and Costa, Empresas Sutil, the Ibáñez family and Drake Foundation, the Luksic Family, the Yarur Family and BCI, Grupo Consorcio, Grupo Matte, Inversiones Angelini and Empresas Copec, Inversiones Saieh and Banco Itaú have joined this project. Beyond making an economic donation, these companies make their laboratories and facilities available to government authorities.
• Through its emergency fund, CONFIEP (National Confederation of Private Business Institutions) has raised two million dollars for the purchase of medical equipment for the Ministry of Health in Peru.
Banking and Financial Services
• JP Morgan Chase & Co has donated $50 million to provide food and health resources to COVID-19-affected individuals in Europe, Asia, and the United States.
• Goldman Sachs has donated 100,000 masks in New York to provide support amidst the public health crisis.
• BlackRock has made a $50 million donation which will be managed through social groups to help people in situations of economic and health vulnerability arising from the global crisis.
• Banking and financial services giant, BBVA, has committed to donating 25 million euros in the countries where it operates to support the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. In Colombia, employees of BBVA will donate one day of their salary to the national government to support in alleviating the public health and economic difficulties brought about by COVID-19, and in Mexico, BBVA has launched a specific economic plan to support its customers, including private customers or small- to medium-sized enterprises.
• Banco Santander has announced the creation of an initial fund of 25 million euros, raised by the reduction of the remuneration of the Board of Directors, to provide health equipment to help curb the fight against the spread of the virus. The opening of specific credit lines for small and medium-sized enterprises that may be affected by the current economic situation alongside flexibility in the collection of fees and credit payments for customers is an additional step being taken by Banco Santander. In Portugal, Banco Santander has made an online healthcare service via the SafeCare Saúde mobile application available to all customers. Further, Banco Santander has offered a donation of 4 million euros to the Community of Madrid for the provision of new beds and ventilators for the ICU in the temporary hospital in IFEMA.
• BankInter in Portugal has developed specific action plans to help families and businesses that are suffering from the adverse effects of the current pandemic. The main measures include offering flexible installments of credit payments and the opening of lines of financing for small and medium-sized enterprises.
• Softbank has made numerous donations of health equipment in some of the geographic areas most affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
• Bank of China has donated health equipment to the Canadian Government to support the fight against COVID-19.
• Banco de Chile has informed its clients of the possibility of deferring mortgage and loan dues upon reaching the maturity of their credit period.
• Banco de Crédito del Perú launched the #YoMeSumo initiative to raise economic funds to assist families in poverty. The bank has also frozen the collection of credit fees and debts during the months of April and May.
• Banco Sabadell has taken various measures that improve the economic circumstances of its customers like increasing flexibility for payment of credit dues with a possible grace period of up to 12 months in Mexico, for example.
• Pichincha Bank has committed to donating $10,000,000 to the Ecuadorian government for the procurement of sanitary equipment. They are also offering flexible conditions in the payment of credit fees for private and small- and medium-sized businesses.
• Fonplata has offered $200,000 to the Bolivian Ministry of Health for the acquisition of medical equipment. Additionally, they have donated $15 million for the enablement of health spaces in Argentina, which allows care for patients affected by the coronavirus.
*In Latin America several banks are aiming to adapt to the immediate economic needs of their customers. These efforts are largely reflected in the flexibility in the collection of credit payments as well as other fees. Beyond those already mentioned, in México, Banorte, Nafin, and HSBC have adopted this measure; in Bolivia, Banco de Crédito BCP, Banco Económico, BancoSol, Banco Nacional de Bolivia (BNB), Banco Mercantil Santa Cruz, Fassil, Banco Unión, and Bisa; in Chile, Banco Estado, Banco Falabella, Banco Santander, Banco Itaú, BCI, Scotiabank, and finally in Brazil, Banco do Brasil, Caixa Econo Federalmica, Banco Bradesco, and Banco Itaú.
• Shell has announced the diversification of activity in their plants in Canada and the Netherlands for the production of isopropyl alcohol to manufacture disinfectant gel. The company has already made 2.5 million liters of this product available to the Dutch health authorities, duty-free. Additionally, in a part of its network of service stations, the company will offer food and drink free of charge to healthcare professionals and carriers. Moreover, access to showers will be free for transport professionals.
• Ecopetrol’s company, Bioenergy, will place 1 million liters of anhydrous alcohol for the production of antibacterial gel on the market given the lack of global supply of this essential material. Further, company workers will donate one day of their salary to the national government for patients affected by COVID-19.
• BP is offering a free fuel refueling service for emergency vehicles and facilitating the free shipment of food and necessities from its network of stores.
• Through the Enel Cuore Foundation, Enel has donated 23 million euros in Italy to support Civil Protection work and hospitals and to fund the activity of local governments and NGOs seeking to alleviate the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic. Other initiatives include the activation of a special policy for workers in cases of hospitalization for the COVID-19 virus.
• Italian company Eni’s initiatives include the donation of 30 million euros for the enablement of medical facilities in different centers in Italy, the creation of information and awareness campaigns around the pandemic, and the assignment of their ‘HPC5 supercomputing system’ to conduct medical research.
• ExxonMobil has made modifications to its production activity to meet the most urgent sanitation needs, such as the manufacture of isopropyl alcohol for disinfectant gel, and polypropylene for masks, ventilators, and gowns.
• Petrobras will collaborate on coronavirus research with Stanford University’s Department of Chemistry, offering two of its “supercomputers.”
• Repsol has developed various support activities in its regions of operation, including the delivery of a batch of personal protective equipment for sanitation in Bolivia.
• In Chile, A.G. Power Companies (an association that includes the CGE, Chilquinta, Enel, Saesa, and Transelec groups) has reached an agreement to develop a maintenance plan and guarantee the electricity supply as well as to facilitate special agreements to support vulnerable households.
In general, major companies have paid special attention to enhancing access to internet connection for all customers, offering free mobile data packages as a common measure. Moreover, in collaboration with government authorities, certain initiatives have been launched, including an agreement among major European telecommunications companies (Vodafone, Deutsche Telekom, Orange, Telefonica, Telecom Italia, Telenor, Telia, and A1 Telekom Austria) with the European Commission to provide geolocation data on mobile phones to monitor the spread of COVID-19. In the UK, major companies have struck an agreement with the Government to facilitate access to their telecommunications services for the most vulnerable consumers. In focusing on additional initiatives in Europe, the following major companies stand out:
• Deutsche Telekom has enabled free access to tools that make it easier to work remotely (Microsoft Office 365, Computer Aid Business), including the possibility of a bandwidth extension to all customers.
• Vodafone has offered to expand network capacity in hospitals to support and facilitate the increased activity. To support the free flow of information, they will be enabling free access to online educational resources which have been recommended by different agencies. To further enable governments to communicate essential information to citizens, Vodafone offers national governments the ability to disseminate relevant information free of charge, through text messages. Finally, through its Foundation, the company has made a donation of 400,000 euros to the “Dreamlab” initiative and UNICEF to promote research on the use of technology in the search for a treatment for COVID-19. In the different countries where the company operates, this foundation has also driven different initiatives at the local level.
• Orange is offering increased network capacity and enabling free messaging service for healthcare use, enabling free access to online educational and cultural resources, and donating more than 500,000 euros through its Foundation to collaborate with local NGOs that are supporting at-risk groups.
• Telefónica’s foundation, Fundación Telefónica, has donated 500,000 euros for the creation of shelter-in-place spaces for the homeless and for the delivery of essential goods to vulnerable families. Telefónica is also engaged in the development of a mobile application around COVID-19 in Spain alongside Google, the Spanish government, and others.
• Generali has opened a 100 million euro aid fund to provide economic and health resources in the fight against COVID-19, with an initial contribution of 30 million in Italy.
• The Zurich Insurance Group has enabled specific channels of information about coronavirus in the countries where it operates.
• Axa will expand online healthcare services for all policyholders, donate medical equipment to different hospitals in Italy and France, and collaborate with Fund101 to launch a project to monitor the medical data of patients with COVID-19 admitted to intensive care units. This measure is intended to facilitate research into possible treatments. These commitments are in addition to a donation of 5 million euros to support coronavirus research which will be developed by the Pasteur Institute and the opening of a solidarity fund of 10 million euros in France to support clients most affected by the current pandemic.
• Roche has confirmed a commitment to streamlining the process of producing and sending coronavirus diagnostic tests for those countries where products are marketed according to the regulations of the CE mark. They have also announced a collaboration with NGOs and government agencies to ensure access to COVID-19 diagnosis and relevant health care.
• Bayer AG has donated three million Resochin tablets to the US government. These contain a compound similar to hydroxychloroquine, which could be used as a treatment for coronavirus. Additionally, Bayer has donated $1 million to hospitals in Italy’s Lombardy region, one of the areas most severely affected by COVID-19, having also donated three ventilators for COVID-19 patients at Klinikgruppe Ernst von Bergmann.
• Merck&Co has donated masks for healthcare from possible cases of COVID.
• Johnson&Johnson has donated $50 million to provide equipment to healthcare professionals who care for COVID-19 patients.
• Grifols has reached a collaboration agreement with US agencies to develop a possible treatment for coronavirus, based on the use of plasma from people recovered from the disease.
*Under the framework of the ‘Innovative Medicines’ Initiative, a public-private partnership program, thirteen pharmaceutical companies are working together in Europe to try to accelerate the discovery of possible treatments for COVID-19. This group of thirteen companies includes Abbvie, Astellas, Bayer, Boehringer Ingelheim, E-Pharma, Enyo Pharma, IDbyDNA, Janssen, Merck, Novartis, Pfizer, Special Products, and Takeda.
Commerce and Retail
• Amazon has been engaged in several initiatives including making financial donations to local organizations to respond to the most basic needs of vulnerable groups affected by the current situation, offering new content options for Amazon devices and Alexa, and making its logistical potential available to UK health authorities to increase their diagnostic capacity on COVID-19. Amazon Music also has an active collaboration in the “COVID-19 Relief Fund” to support the music industry that has and will continue to be affected by reduced activity due to the coronavirus pandemic.
• The L’Oréal Group has begun production of hand sanitizer in their factories, which will be donated to the European health authorities. Further, they have implemented flexible payment conditions for customers and guarantees of payment to their smaller suppliers, even in cases where activity has ceased. The L’Oreal Foundation will donate one million euros to the entities with which it is already collaborating with the aim of facilitating access to the material necessary for the prevention and treatment of COVID-19. From their cosmetic brands, La Roche-Posay and Garnier, disinfectant gel for healthcare personnel, pharmacists, and food distribution managers will be provided free of charge.
• Coca-Cola has made financial donations to NGOs in countries such as Canada and the United States through its foundation. These donations will work by providing humanitarian aid to the population affected by COVID-19.
• Unilever will contribute 100 million euros to donations of soap, disinfectants, cleaning products, and food to help fight the coronavirus pandemic.
• Ikea is manufacturing masks and bedding to help with the public health crisis while enabling spaces for sanitary use in the UK.
• Postobón Group (Colombia) is collaborating in the #InnspiraMED initiative, donating 9 billion Colombian pesos to develop mechanical ventilators for patients with COVID-19 while also donating one million bottles of water and other beverages to hospitals and vulnerable communities.
• Bavaria (Colombia) will produce 100,000 bottles of antibacterial gel in collaboration with Binner Personal Care which will be delivered according to the guidance of the Ministry of Health. Bavaria will also make part of its fleet of trucks available to government entities for first-needs transport. At the same time, it will donate one million bottles of water, which will be allocated mainly to the national police that are dealing with current emergencies.
• General Motors and Ford have modified their factories for the production of ventilators and masks for sanitary use in the United States and other countries severely affected by COVID-19.
• Volkswagen is modifying their production processes for the manufacture of sanitary products. Among other local initiatives, Volkswagen has transferred part of its fleet for the use of healthcare personnel in Spain.
Fashion and Textiles
• H&M’s foundation has made a donation of $500,000 to the COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund (created by the World Health Organization). They are also prioritizing the production of sanitary equipment to meet public health demand.
• LVMH Group has made modifications in the production of its perfume factories to produce a hydroalcoholic disinfectant gel which will be donated to the French healthcare system. They will also be financing the first shipment of 1 million masks to France and collaboration with the national government to manage the shipment of another three million masks.
• Uniqlo has made a donation of 10 million masks for sanitary use in different parts of the world.
• Ralph Lauren has donated $10 million to help groups that may have been affected by the current situation through its foundation. They have also adapted their production processes for the manufacture of masks and insulation gowns.
• Inditex, the group to which brands such as Zara, Pull & Bear, Massimo Dutti, and several others belong, is donating medical equipment including protective masks, making Inditex’s logistical capacity and trade relations with China available to the Spanish national government to continuously facilitate the supply of materials in health facilities throughout the crisis, and exploring the possibility of producing sanitary equipment in some of its factories.
• Chanel is manufacturing sanitary material and resources in their facilities, and they have donated 1.2 million euros to an emergency fund for French hospitals.
• Google has made an $800 million economic investment that will help SMEs and freelancers economically while making the company’s technological capacities available to the WHO and government agencies around the world.
• Microsoft has donated $1 million in collaboration with local Seattle-area associations to address the health and economic needs of the population that may have been affected by the coronavirus.
• IBM has made its technological resources and capabilities to promote the development of research on the current pandemic available to the US government. IBM is engaged in high-level leadership with the White House Office of Science and Technology and the U.S. Department of Energy on “The COVID-19 High-Performance Computing Consortium” initiative to provide access to high-performance technology resources for COVID-19 research. This initiative has been supported by different companies in the sector such as IBM, Amazon Web Services, Google Cloud, Microsoft, and Hewlett Packard Enterprise.
• Apple is developing a web tool for self-diagnosis of COVID-19 in collaboration with the CDC, the White House, and FEMA. They will also be donating 10 million masks for the regions most affected by COVID-19 in Europe and the United States in addition to $15 million for the development of health support and financial aid to vulnerable and affected households.
• Nokia has created a global aid fund to support health facilities and NGOs working with the communities most affected by the current pandemic. The company’s team in Italy has donated masks and is raising funds for hospitals in the region.
• Nintendo has donated 10,000 N95 breathing masks to Washington health workers.
Entertainment & Media
• Netflix and Spotify have worked in the same vein, opening different support funds for artistic creators who may have been economically affected due to the imposed reduction of activity amidst the public health crisis.
• Solidarity initiatives have emerged from different football clubs and financial donations have been made in efforts to reduce the negative cash flow brought about by the current situation. Initiatives taken by Real Madrid and Atletico de Madrid in Spain, Roma and Juventus in Italy, , Manchester City in England, and Benfica in Portugal have stood out as notable. In other sports, the solidarity and donations of professionals of the NBA (National Basketball Association) and the NFL (National Football League) are noteworthy.
NGOs and Civil Society
• The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has launched the #CruzRojaResponde campaign to raise economic funds to support the adaptation of services and activities of the ICRC to accommodate the current socio-economic and public health situation. This initiative has the support of relevant public figures, like athletes Rafa Nadal, Pau Gasol, Rafa Márquez, Gerard Piqué, Fernando Alonso, and the singers Rosalía and Vanesa Martín. In Argentina, the ICRC has launched the “Argentina Needs Us” program to raise funds to finance the acquisition of ventilators and protective equipment for public sanitation. In the United States, they are collaborating with the National Football League to raise funds to provide basic services to the population affected by the current pandemic.
• Save The Children has developed a specific action plan to help children from families in economic vulnerability, with a special focus on health and education.
• Fundación Lucha contra sida has launched the #YoMeCorono campaign for funding research on the treatment and prevention of COVID-19, which it is currently developing in collaboration with IrsiCaixa and the Germans Trias i Pujol University Hospital. Different public personalities such as singer and actress, Sharon Stone, and actors Dani Rovira, Alex González and Alvaro Morte, and Knauf Insulation Iberia, the Spanish division of the German multinational, Group Knauf, have already joined this initiative.
• Fundación Saún (Argentina) has created the initiative, “Now closer together than ever” (Ahora más juntos que nunca), which seeks to raise funds for people affected by COVID-19, provide educational support to vulnerable children, and provide psychological support to elderly people who are alone.
Foundations of Relevant Personalities
• Among other contributions, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has made an initial $100 million donation to help the most disadvantaged communities affected by COVID-19 and support research towards treatment and vaccinations.
• The Jack Ma Foundation and the Alibaba Foundation have made a donation of medical and diagnostic equipment for COVID-19 patients in areas where the pandemic is having a severe impact. The Foundations are also offering funding of $2.5 million to the Peter Doherty Institute of Australia for the research and development of COVID-19 treatments.
• The Carlos Slim Foundation has committed to an economic donation of one billion pesos for the acquisition of sanitary equipment for the treatment of COVID-19 patients and safety equipment for healthcare personnel. They will also be enabling the PruebaT educational platform for all entry-level public sector students.
• The COVID-19 Therapeutics Accelerator is an initiative originally promoted by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Wellcome Trust, and Mastercard, which are joining important actors in social and business life such as the “Chan Zuckerberg Initiative“, to accelerate the development of COVID-19 treatments. This initiative is collaborating with different pharmaceutical companies including BD, bioMérieux, Boehringer Ingelheim, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Eisai, Eli Lilly, Gilead, GSK, Johnson & Johnson, Merck (MSD), Merck KGaA, Novartis, Pfizer, and Sanofi.
• In the space of professional athletics, several well-known figures have made financial donations for the provision of health equipment to different hospitals, helping to finance new research on COVID-19 and provide much-needed financial resources to vulnerable families. Among the most important figures are tennis player Roger Federer, UFC champion Conor Mcgregor, and footballers Leo Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.
In the cultural sphere, the philanthropic activity of various figures such as singers Rihanna, Justin Bieber and Lady Gaga, actors Penelope Cruz, Javier Bardem, Ryan Reynolds, and Blake Lively, along with film director Bong Joon-ho has been noteworthy. The initiative of several important figures in the business world who have wanted to demonstrate solidarity amidst the current pandemic is also worth mentioning. The donations of the Colombian businessman, Luis Carlos Sarmiento Angulo, the Italian Agnelli family, and the Indian businessman, Mukesh Ambani, have offered significant contributions towards support at the local level.
As seen in this detailed compilation which has been researched and collected by Constella’s analysts, a wide range of companies, civil society organizations, and high-profile individuals across a wide range of sectors and economic niches are collaborating in a cross-sectorial fashion to help mitigate and alleviate the damaging economic, social, and public health effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Although this article focuses on a very brief overview of best practices based on publicly reported initiatives by major international organizations and high profile figures, there have undoubtedly been countless efforts put forth by other organizations of various sizes, as well as associations, communities, and individuals aimed at supporting one another and alleviating the volatile and often severe impact brought about during this extraordinary period. Over the coming months, this dynamic, agile, and rapid collaborative engagement will be of immense necessity for both industry and society as the long-term global effects of the public health crisis materialize and evolve.
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