Image Credit: REDPIXEL.PL / Shutterstock.com
In the best of times, many believe that big business and entrepreneurs of all sizes are greedy, profit-driven meanies who exploit the masses and stockpile billions by taking advantage of unfair tax policies, favorable legislation, and economic inequality. The mantra is generational, usually trumpeted by those who are not willing to admit that fortunes in a free market society are determined more by their own decisions than by some outside anonymous, evil entity.
The COVID-19 pandemic is producing unfathomable hardship for societies and economies all around the world. The number of silver linings in all the dark clouds of doom are, in reality, non-existent. It is heard often that “we are in this together”, a saying that permeates across all media channels and advertising venues, as well as from the revamped marketing campaigns of business giants, the wealthy one-percenters and even the mom and pops — those small businesses that employ half of America’s population. While the saying is valid-even without saying- it seems necessary and encouraging just to say it. In time of great tragedy and sacrifice there is some comfort in, and optimism from, not being alone. This is a time when the true character of all those most fortunate and even not so fortunate is demonstrated in front of the masses. So, what and how are these business entities doing during the crisis?
The 600 or so billionaires are stepping up to the challenge by donating respectable portions of their wealth to aid in the fight against the pandemic. “We see reports of extremely wealthy people making really substantial dollar commitments to this problem and that’s exciting, heartwarming and really important,” says Dr. Harvey Fineberg, president of the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation. It is a clear revelation that the most financial well-heeled among us are opening their wallets. “I think every citizen needs to help out,” said Blackstone CEO Steve Schwarzman. His firm stepped up eagerly and donated $15 million to fight the coronavirus battle. “If you have more resources, then you help out more.”
Popular brands like Coca-Cola and Chevron are giving millions of dollars to address the pandemic across the globe. Amazon’s Jeff Bezos has pledged $100 million to support local food banks across the country, and many more are following his example in communities all across America. Thousands of large and not so large companies are redirecting their expertise and core competencies in manufacturing, distribution and services of all types to produce solutions to the pandemic’s most challenging effects.
Logitech has developed a program for K-12 teachers to help them transition to virtual teaching. Audible is offering hundreds of free titles for children and students. Internet providers like Comcast are boosting speeds on basic packages and offering free Internet to low-income customers. Web-based virtual conference service provider Zoom is offering a free, unlimited version of its service for students and families cloistered at home.
Healthcare providers and facilities on the front line of the battle are receiving unprecedented support from some of the most famous brands across industry. Serta Simmons Bedding donated 10,000 mattresses to New York City hospitals and temporary medical facilities. Tech companies like SoftBank, Apple, Facebook and Salesforce are donating supplies of N-95 masks to local hospitals. Harbor Freight Tools donated its entire supply of protective equipment to hospitals in the communities where its stores are located.
Starbucks is giving a free coffee beverage to all health care workers, police officers, firefighters, paramedics and other hospital or medical staffers. Krispy Kreme is offering a free dozen doughnuts every Monday to anyone who works in the medical sector. The American Hotel and Lodging Association is creating a national database connecting hotel properties with the health community struggling to find housing and support during the COVID-19 public health crisis.
Financial institutions, often the most derided benefactors of good times, are stepping up to offer extended repayment plans to individuals and small business who are devastated by the sequester. Property landlords are offering differed rental and lease payment plans and pledging to help keep families in their homes and brick and mortar stores in business.
The Economic Policy Institute is predicting that the unprecedented disruption to businesses from coronavirus could lead to 15,000 permanent retail store closures in 2020 and wipe out potentially three million jobs from the U.S. economy. In light of this revelation from an industry that is attempting to find its way to surviving in a new retailing reality, it may be surprising to many that these vulnerable entities are reaching out from their own state of near-certain demise to lend a hand to those in greater need.
COVID-19 may have succeeded in the temporary closing of Rosie’s Collection (Rosie’s), a small, privately owned boutique located in Gettysburg, PA, but that hasn’t deterred its efforts to support an important and much needed community cause. When Rosie’s Owner, Marci Cropp, realized that the mission of Ruth’s Harvest, a free ministry of area churches and organizations that provides healthy meals and snacks to food-insecure children, was in need of help to fulfilling an important community need, she contacted the organization to find out how Rosie could help. “Our doors may be closed for now but we have a very effective website that allows our customers to access our wide range of products and services without leaving home”, says Cropp. “The Ruth’s Harvest volunteers are working diligently to feed more than 200 children each day, so Rosie decided to put our website to work to help this important project.” Similar fundraising programs are ongoing by suffering businesses in communities large and small across the nation.
While some will say that social responsibility campaigns are just good business in today’s socially conscious society, the altruistic response from brands and businesses all across the country during the COVID-19 crisis is indicative of something far more important than good business practices and profits. It is a demonstration of the true character of all those who dream to achieve in a free market society.