The Brand Move Roundup – April 6, 2020

We’re tracking the notable brand moves & highlighting the companies who are tackling this challenge successfully.

We started this series of brand updates on March 12, but the reaction has been so positive, and the crisis so fast-moving, that we’re going to move to a continuously updated rolling news format from now until it’s all over (hopefully soon). Keep checking back here for the latest updates on how brands are dealing with coronavirus.

Cloud-based enterprise software firm SAP has established a €3 million COVID-19 Emergency Fund to support the urgent needs of the World Health Organization (WHO), the CDC Foundation, and smaller nonprofits and social enterprises that work on the front lines serving local communities in crisis. “SAP stands with the WHO and supports its leadership in coordinating the global effort to mobilize the fight against COVID-19,” said Alexandra van der Ploeg, head of SAP CSR. “Specifically, SAP is donating €1 million to the COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund for the WHO hosted by Swiss Philanthropy Foundation and the United Nations Foundation for virus prevention and detection. SAP is also making resources and expertise available to help our nonprofit and social enterprise partners effectively shift to remote operations. We want to help ensure they can maintain their much-needed services to their communities and not lay off staff.” Meanwhile, SAP is collaborating with an ecosystem of business-to-business startup partners through its SAP.iO program – startups which center on managing a distributed workforce. The list includes secondment and staff re-allocation tool Andjaro; Bravely, a platform connects employees to on-demand professional coaching; Clearmetal, which enables accurate delivery forecasts and exception management in multi-modal container-based transport; Cultivate which facilitates growth in-management capability and organizational health through passive data acquisition and analysis of employee feedback; Disco which enables employees to recognize and commend each other, building employee engagement; mobile micro-learning platform Gnowbe; Goodr, a startup tackling hunger by connecting sources of surplus food with those in need, such as food banks; the MeQuilibrium well-being and performance platform; Plum, a psychometric-based talent acquisition and management platform; WeGift, a leading platform for real-time on-demand digital incentives, payouts, and rewards due to eGift cards; and Wethos, which curates virtual teams of contingent creative and marketing experts.

Pharmaceuticals giant Johnson & Johnson has announced the selection of a lead COVID-19 vaccine candidate from constructs it has been working on since January 2020, the significant expansion of the existing partnership between its Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies of and the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) and the rapid scaling of the company’s manufacturing capacity, with the goal of providing global supply of more than one billion doses of a vaccine. The company expects to initiate human clinical studies of its lead vaccine candidate at the latest by September 2020 and anticipates the first batches of a COVID-19 vaccine could be available for emergency use authorization in early 2021, a much speedier time frame than the typical vaccine development process.

Through a landmark new partnership, BARDA, which is part of the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR) at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and Johnson & Johnson together have committed more than $1 billion of investment to co-fund vaccine research, development, and clinical testing. Meanwhile, the Johnson & Johnson family of companies and the Johnson & Johnson Foundation are committing $50 million to support front line health workers in the global fight against Covid-19. The funds will be earmarked for assisting doctors, nurses, midwives and community health workers who are working to treat patients around the world during the novel coronavirus pandemic. “Serving doctors, nurses and health workers is who we are and what we do – and has been since 1886. Those at the front lines are our colleagues, family members, customers and partners – so we join the millions around the world who put them front and center right now, to support them as they provide care amidst Covid-19,” said Michael Sneed, Executive Vice President, Global Corporate Affairs & Chief Communication Officer. “We are proud to focus our pandemic response donations on the needs of front line health workers and make a $50 million commitment in addition to the $250 million commitment made earlier this year.”

A New England Patriots team plane loaded with 1.2 million N95 protective masks has landed back in Boston after picking up the vital supplies in China. Robert Kraft and Patriots president Jonathan Kraft partnered with the state to purchase 1.4 million N95 masks for Massachusetts, according to the team. Kraft also purchased another 300,000 protective masks for New York state. Bringing the equipment to the US on the team’s airplane was “probably the most challenging operation our organization and team ever had to do,” said Kraft.

Metallica’s charitable foundation, All Within My Hands, has just announced four grants totaling $350,000 that will be dedicated to organizations assisting with relief efforts during the Covid-19/coronavirus pandemic. “In the wake of the spread of the coronavirus, the most vulnerable people in our communities need help now more than ever,” stated the band, while revealing that Feeding America, Direct Relief, Crew Nation and the USBG National Charity Foundation would be those receiving the financial aid. The group has worked frequently with Feeding America in the past, and the organization recently launched a Covid-19 Response Fund, working with local food banks to provide specific needs. “As the need continues to grow, our local food banks are suffering from a lack of volunteers, donations, and food distribution assistance from their normal channels. AWMH has pledged $100,000 to this fund,” stated the group.

After having donated more than €2m euro to the hospital in Parma – the city where their headquarters are situated), pasta manufacturers Barilla have made a great employee engagement move. “We are proud of you” is the message that appeared today in Italian newspapers signed by the brothers Guido, Luca and Paolo Barilla, alongside the names of all the 2,700 employees of the group who have continue to man the brand’s production plants, guaranteeing the supply of this Italian necessity. 

Italian engineers at Isinnova have teamed up with sportswear giant Decathlon and medical experts to convert full-face snorkeling masks into masks that can be hooked up to medical breathing machines that help those infected with the COVID-19 virus. Engineers Cristian Fracassi and Alessandro Romaiol of Italian engineering company Isinnova were approached by Dr. Renato Favero, former head physician at the Gardone Valtrompia Hospital, with an idea to help mitigate the current shortage of C-PAP masks caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The masks are used by hospitals in sub-intensive therapy. The need for these masks spiked when COVID-19 reached Italy earlier this year. Since these masks are now in short supply, Dr. Favero suggested modifying readily-available scuba divers’ masks into masks that can be connected to a ventilating machine. Isinnova got hold of the CAD designs, studied them, and made the modifications, including the design and 3D printing of the valves that connecting the mask to the breathing machine tubes. On their website, Isinnova wrote that the prototype was tested on one of their colleagues inside Chiari Hospital and the test was a success. The hospital itself also tested the device on a patient in need and the new modified ventilation mask passed the test with flying colors.

Global spectacles and sunglasses brand Luxottica has invested in welfare to restore safety and strengthen the sense of community among all employees of the group. It will fully integrate the salary of those in layoffs, will recognize a bonus of 500 euros for those who work and, at the same time, will push managers to reduce their salary in line with what has already been done by CEO Francesco Milleri. It will also reduce the summer closure to one week to encourage full recovery of activities. The company, having accepted requests from trade unions, has also introduced some targeted initiatives to support the corporate population most affected by the emergency.

Ingka Group, the owner of most IKEA stores worldwide, has bought US virtual reality startup Geomagical Labs so it can use the firm’s technology to give customers more options when trying out furniture in a virtual version of their homes, rather than travelling to stores.

Top-flight UK soccer club Chelsea have teamed up with domestic abuse charity Refuge to help provide support for people forced to self-isolate in vulnerable situations because of the coronavirus pandemic. Experts have warned the coronavirus crisis will lead to “a domestic abuse pandemic”, with self-isolation potentially aggravating existing abusive behavior and women in danger of finding it harder to report abuse and seek support. The manager of Chelsea Women, Emma Hayes, and male and female players are taking part in a digital campaign to raise awareness and funds for the charity, with the Premier League club promising to match all donations received in the next six weeks. Chelsea has played an active role in the community since the coronavirus outbreak., opening the Millennium Hotel on their Stamford Bridge stadium site to NHS staff working in London hospitals, and their players have donated money to enable the Chelsea Foundation to help those in need during the crisis.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has introduced a new fund to help deal with emergency situations like the coronavirus. Called the Prime Minister’s Citizen Assistance and Relief in Emergency Situations Fund, or PM CARES Fund, the fund has already been attracting contributions from a variety of individuals and corporate entities. The government has now opened up the fund for foreign contributions from both by individuals and institutions. IT mogul Azim Premji has committed Rs. 1000 crore ($134 million) through his philanthropic arm, the Azim Premji Foundation. In a release on Wednesday, the company said that the foundation’s 1,600 employees will work together with the government and healthcare workers. The money will be used for humanitarian aid and for beefing up healthcare support targeted at containment and treatment of the disease. Software developer Wipro Limited has committed another Rs.100 crore ($13 million), while engineering services company Wipro Enterprises Limited has donated Rs 25 crore ($3.3 million). India’s richest man Mukesh Ambani, owner of petrochemicals-to-telecoms giant Reliance, has contributed Rs. 500 crore ($67 million) to the prime minister’s fund; Rs. 5 crores ($660,000) for the relief fund of the chief minister of Maharashtra, Ambani’s home state, and an equal amount for the relief fund of the chief minister of Gujarat state, where Reliance’s biggest refinery complex is located. This follows a slew of measures announced by Ambani that range from setting up a 100-bed COVID unit in Mumbai to providing free meals across multiple cities to a daily production of 100,000 masks by Reliance. Ratan Tata, who chairs India’s oldest philanthropic outfit, Tata Trusts, the biggest shareholder of the group’s holding firm, Tata Sons, has earmarked Rs. 500 crore ($67 million) towards tackling the pandemic. This sum is said to include covering the costs of protective gear, ventilators, testing kits; the establishment of modular treatment centers and training for healthcare workers. Tata Group Chairman N. Chandrasekaran pledged an additional Rs. 1000 crore ($134 million) to support activities in collaboration with Tata Trusts. He said that the Tata Group is getting ready to manufacture ventilators soon. Privately held Mankind Pharma, whose founder Ramesh Juneja and his family figure among India’s richest, has promised Rs. 51 crore ($7 million) toward relief activities. The New Delhi company, which makes everything from vitamins to antibiotics to condoms, will be donating ventilators, protective gear and medicines. Mankind’s 14,000 employees have contributed one day of their salary to the promised amount. Two-wheeler manufacturer TVS Motor Company will be giving Rs. 25 crore ($3.3 million) to the prime minister’s fund. Its corporate social responsibility arm, the Srinivasan Services Trust, has pledged Rs.5 crore ($660,000) to the Tamil Nadu chief minister’s relief fund. The company is also manufacturing and supplying one million protective face masks across the southern state of Tamil Nadu, where it is headquartered. Additionally, the company’s factory kitchens have been pressed into service to supply packed and cooked meals to healthcare workers, police personnel and municipal workers. Ride-hailing brand Ola – backed by investors such as Chinese Internet service giant Tencent – has announced a Rs. 20 crore ($2.7 million) fund for its drivers called “Drive the Driver” Fund. Founder Bhavish Aggarwal has contributed his annual salary to this fund. This is aimed at providing emergency support and essential supplies to drivers. This will be the start of a crowdfunding campaign which hopes to raise Rs. 50 crores ($6.7 million). Ola has also offered 500 cabs to the Karnataka government for emergency transportation. Billionaire banker Uday Kotak – who founded and runs Kotak Mahindra Bank – has made a personal donation of Rs. 25 crore ($3.3 million) to the prime minister’s fund. This is topped by Rs. 35 crore ($5 million) pledged by the bank, of which Rs. 25 crores ($3.3 million) will go towards the prime minister’s fund and Rs. 10 crore ($1.3 million) will be go toward the Maharashtra chief minister’s relief fund. The money will support “preventive, curative, rescue, relief and rehab operations,” the company said in a release. Indian decorative paints major Asian Paints, which is controlled by three billionaire families, has announced a Rs. 35 crore ($5 million) fund for central and state relief efforts. Truck maker Ashok Leyland –owned by the billionaire Hinduja brothers – is supplying masks, gloves, hand wash, sanitizers and protective gear for healthcare workers. The company’s power business has supplied generators to various hospitals treating COVID-19 patients. Japanese paint maker Nippon Paint is providing financial assistance to more than 1,000 painters by providing a digital currency card that be used to buy essential items. Bollywood actor Akshay Kumar, who was ranked by Forbes as the fourth-highest paid actor in 2019 with $65 million in earnings, has committed Rs. 25 crores ($3.3 million) to the prime minister’s welfare fund. The country’s richest sporting body, the Board of Cricket Control in India (BCCI), has also announced a Rs. 51 crore ($7 million) contribution to the prime minister’s relief fund.

Hospital operator Mount Sinai’s senior executives have agreed to take a 50 per cent pay cut to donate to COVID-19 response. In all 14 executives have agreed to donate half their salary during the crisis, as the eight-hospital system faces an unprecedented surge.

GE Renewable Energy’s wind turbine factory in Pensacola, Florida, is using a 3D printer to build plastic shields for protecting disposable N95 masks. Caroline Shaw, a sourcing manager at the factory, needed a way to supply a team of GE workers with personal protective equipment (PPE), to help keep workers safe as they screened other factory employees for signs of fevers or other illness. The Pensacola factory has an industrial-grade 3D printer to make tooling and custom-made gauges, and prototype wind turbine components, with which Shaw made a plastic prototype of an N95 shield. An on-site nurse tried it out that afternoon. The following day, engineer Tiffany Craft began printing the shields, and gave them to her emergency response team, taking time to deliver a few to a local hospital. At present, it takes about 40 minutes to make each shield, though the teams are working on a process that could reduce that to five minutes per mask.

Pop singer Pink has announced that she has tested positive for COVID-19, also announcing that she is donating $500,000 each to two emergency funds. Half of her donation is going to the Temple University Hospital Emergency Fund in Philadelphia, she said, “in honor of my mother, Judy Moore, who worked there for 18 years.” She is also giving $500,000 to the City of Los Angeles Mayor’s Emergency COVID-19 Crisis Fund. The star thanked healthcare professionals who are “working so hard to protect our loved ones”, adding: “You are our heroes!”

UK home delivery service Deliveroo is to offer emergency Passover kits to members of the Jewish community who are struggling to obtain special food for the Seder meal which marks the start of the week-long festival this Wednesday. The firm has partnered with the Jewish charity Chabad Lubavitch UK to provide the “Seder-to-go” kits. Each box will contain six small containers containing the items needed for the seder plate ,and a roll up seder plate. Also available are a box of Matzah, a bottle of grape juice, a bottle of wine, a Kiddush cup and a Haggadah – the text recited at the Seder. The move is aimed at people who are vulnerable or self-isolating, and are unable to go shopping to buy items for the Seder. Delivery will be free of charge and contact-free. Rabbi Bentzi Sudak, chief executive of Chabad Lubavitch UK, said: “These kits will help to ensure every Jewish person is able to celebrate the festival of our freedom in these uniquely challenging times. For those in quarantine or self-isolation who have never conducted a Seder on their own, the included guide and Seder supplies will make that possible.”

Cookbook-based recipe website have opened up access to their entire library – usually a $39.99/year subscription service – for 30 days. Their “We Can Cook Through This” initiative offers access to more than 85,000 recipes to, as they say, “help you and your loved ones with simple, practical recipes to make the most of what you have in your store cupboard.”