The world of business has been decimated by the impact of the coronavirus, which has affected all sectors and companies of all sizes. However, in times like these, there are often beaming lights of inspiration that people can get behind to help us get through this.
As a result, Business Leader Magazine has highlighted 32 businesses – and their leaders – who have gone above and beyond for their staff, community and the wider UK. The heroes selected were suggested by our readers.
We are aware that there are hundreds of examples of great leadership though these troubling times, and we encourage you to send in your nominations through the comment section below.
The list is in no particular order.
Neale’s firm remanufacture laptops from HP, Lenovo and Dell, with a focus on sustainable IT. Their products were highly sought after due to the requirement of many businesses needing to work remotely. Neale took a decision to help those in need, not for profit or recognition but because the firm was in a position to help the community. They donated laptops to care homes across Surrey, Hampshire, Dorset, Isle of Wight and West Sussex with the sole intention of enabling disabled, vulnerable and the elderly residents to be able to speak with their loved ones through Skype.
Quartet Community Foundation
As Chief Executive of Quartet, Turner led her team to raised more than £1.2m to support West of England charitable organisations through the pandemic. The firm is at the forefront of drawing up the £30m ‘Recovery Plan’ for the social sector, which creates £200bn of social value to the UK annually – or 10% of UK GDP according to the Bank of England’s Chief Economist Andy Haldane. Turner’s company is working closely with
business organisations to reframe business/charity relationships to give more targeted support in the future.
Supported by a surge in demand for musicMagpie’s refurbished consumer tech products, as people looked to work, stay connected and be entertained from home, Oliver put a fundraising scheme in place whereby the business would donate £1 for every single item of consumer tech it purchases from its customers, as well as donating £1 for each refurbished tech item sold on its online store, to the NHS Charities Together Scheme. The scheme is on target to hit £250k. Oliver and his staff donated over 200 tablets to health authorities across the UK, including 25 to Stepping Hill hospital in Stockport, where musicMagpie is based.
Cavanna established the community interest company last year to provide a mobile community centre in Torbay, Devon. She had been awarded lottery funding to buy UB40’s old tour bus and renovate it into a mobile kitchen and library service which would service vulnerable and isolated members of the community. She recognised that Re4orm needed to act quickly to provide the areas depleted tourism industry with a lifeline – and with food. She raised £10,000 to provide meals and food parcels to those most in need across Torbay.
Imageco are specialists in all aspects of wide format print; creating signage, exhibitions, retail POS and graphics. The firm has risen to the challenge of coronavirus and used their innovation to design and create products to assist workers during the pandemic. They reworked their entire operation to create PPE for front-line workers. Using their Zund cutter and sewing facilities, they have been able to create masks, hand sanitising stations, social distancing POS and much more. They have donated thousands of pieces of equipment across the North and thousands of pounds in charity donations.
Community of Purpose
The Bristol-based company created a new programme, ‘Board Games for Bored Kids’, which delivers games and food to some of the city’s most disadvantaged children. The city has 13,500 children on Free School Meals, which includes 70% of children living in South Bristol. COP has worked hard to ensure they have food parcels and vouchers, so they’re not going hungry. But they are also very likely to be stuck at home with no access to a garden, to the internet or with any games to play – so COP also provide games for those most in need.
During the COVID-19 outbreak, national car share scheme Co-wheels Car Club launched a 50% discount to help those leading the fight against Coronavirus get to work and carry out essential volunteering safely. With the frequency of public transport having been reduced to combat the outbreak of the virus, it can be difficult for key workers to commute, with less services running and safe social distancing often not possible. This discounted service is available to all NHS care staff, including doctors, nurses, and paramedics, as well as front line carers and NHS volunteers, who can access vehicles in over 60 locations around the UK.
Builders’ Merchant Federation
The Builders’ Merchants Federation represents 710 members nationwide, with combined sales of £32bn – a sizeable part of the UK economy. Despite the scope and scale of the industry he represents, Newcomb was able to act quickly and make a positive impact to support his network during the crisis. He led a team whose work included; a co-ordinated, national response to PPE donation; the development of safe site operating procedures to safely help get Britain building again; and daily liaison with government, through the Construction Leadership Council (CLC), to construct plans to help the industry through the pandemic.
North P&I Club
Newcastle-based shipping and marine insurer, North P&I Club, has lent its support to a number of local and international charities, drawing attention to the welfare of seafarers during the pandemic. As shipping is a vital part of the international supply chain keeping our shelves stocked, many crews remain at sea, unable to see their loved ones, until restrictions ease. The club has ringfenced £40,000 of its North 150 Fund for maritime charities, including the Sailors’ Society to provide mental health resources for struggling seafarers and their families during this difficult time.
Yorkshire-based printing company Bluetree Group, owner of InstantPrint.co.uk and Route1Print.co.uk, has been manufacturing type IIR-medical grade face masks and the UK’s first mask subscription service.
Following a call from the World Health Organisation in March for the industry to help increase face mask production by 40%, Bluetree Group decided to diversify its manufacturing capabilities to help with the response to COVID-19.
The business has converted its 45,000 sq ft facility into a surgical face mask factory. This facility will be capable of producing 1.4 million masks per week. Bluetree Group will also be donating a year’s supply of face masks to Bluebell Wood, a local hospice.
Beaverbrooks the Jewellers
Despite many online retailers continuing trading throughout the crisis, Beaverbrooks took the decision to close its stores and warehouse operations ahead of the government announcement, to protect its colleagues, their families and the wider community. Following significant changes to its operations it was able to reopen its warehouse on 15 April to process online orders safely while its 70 stores were closed. The company has been instrumental in connecting with its people through digital platforms, encouraging them to use their time for volunteering and helping others to support local communities and those fighting on the front line of the crisis.
FliteTrak designs, manufactures and supplies intelligent health monitoring systems across multiple sectors, including aerospace, rail, health, marine, sanitation and agriculture.
But since the start of the pandemic, Barnett put things on hold to make face shields for essential workers. He designed and prototyped the shields before printing them on 3D printers.
He bought more 3D printers to increase capacity and his increased capacity to make about 25 visors a day to a total of 15,000 face shields – all for free or at cost/not-for-profit price. They have gone to GP surgeries, care workers, and other key workers.
Brownhill and his staff at the Dorset-based firm have provided over 600 visors to GP’s, local nurses, carers, care homes and safety glasses from company stocks for all that wanted them. They have provided receptionist screens and doors to enable local GP practices to continue to take blood tests and carry out important work. Brownhill has registered as an ‘OLIO’ food hero, where he collects unsold food from the local Tesco each Friday and Saturday night at about 8.30pm, to then take that food home, and load up to the OLIO app, where people can request that food and collect it.
Professor Cara Aitchison
Cardiff Metropolitan University
Led by Professor Aitchison, Cardiff Metropolitan University has delivered a programme of measures with all decision making based on the importance of safeguarding the health and wellbeing of staff, students and the wider community. Aitchison committed to putting people first, she took the decision to close campuses and to move all teaching online a week before the lockdown measures in Wales began, back in March.
She also approved the use of spaces on Cardiff Metropolitan’s campus for a pilot Blood Bank donation centre, proving so successful it has returned to the site six times to date and been rolled out as a model across Wales.
Little Soap Company
In the early stage of the lockdown, there was mass panic buying and supermarket shelves were bare of soaps. As a result, the firm’s organic and natural soap has seen a huge rise in sales. They delivered a three month supply into Asda in two weeks – showing the increased demand. Many soap brands on the shelves are made abroad, exacerbating the challenges. Manufacturing in the UK and being totally in charge of its entire supply chain allowed it to fill the gap needed by the wider country.
Then, a few weeks on, there was a global bottle and closure shortage with all manufacturing having been diverted for sanitisers – fortunately, with 95% of their range being bar soap, buyers turned to them to help out.
Paul and Natalie Sutherland
Paul and Natalie Sutherland set up MechFS over 11 years ago and now have four UK offices and two German offices. They are extremely active in their local community and, as a business, MechFS is involved in many charities and local organisations in the area. As soon as the coronavirus pandemic began, they wanted to help the local community. After hearing that the NHS staff at Doncaster Royal Infirmary were struggling for meals onsite during their shifts, they reached out to a local catering company and organised and fully funded the food truck to be located at DRI for three weeks across April and May to feed the staff. Over the three weeks the truck served over 8000 meals.
LEON increased its NHS discount from 15% to 50% in early March. Then, on 27th March, FeedNHS was launched by Vincent, the LEON CEO and Co-founder, as well as actors Damian Lewis, Helen McCrory, and Matt Lucas, who helped get the message out there about why this cause would make a difference to the heroic work of hospital and healthcare staff during the crisis. FeedNHS has now been providing meals to hospitals for many weeks and has delivered up to 13,000 meals a day to 38 hospitals. In total, over £1.4m has been raised and 460,000 meals have been served.
Vape Dinner Lady
This vaping company switched its production focus to making hand sanitiser and joined forces with the National Care Association (NCA), to provide essential PPE to some of the UK’s most vulnerable frontline workers. They repurposed their production line at their manufacturing base in Blackburn and created 24 new jobs, in order to help meet unprecedented demand from key workers during and beyond the coronavirus pandemic. The firm initially donated 10,000 individual-use hand sanitisers to frontline care workers working within care homes in the National Care Association network.
Beesley is the Workshop Manager at St. Helens-based Widd Signs – a national signage manufacturer. He has led his team to produce thousands of face masks for frontline NHS staff and care workers. Supporting the St Helens COVID Mask Makers Group – a 100-strong group of local volunteers who are drawing on their combined skills and expertise to create and provide face masks to frontline NHS staff and care workers in the North West and further afield. To date, over 3,500 masks and 700 headbands have been created and distributed.
Nestares is the CEO of insurance firm Admiral. The firm has a strong commitment to supporting the local community in South Wales where the company is based, and this has intensified during the current crisis. They helped provide support to young homeless men, women and children suffering from domestic abuse, through a donation of £25,000 to Wales’ leading homeless charity, Llamau.
Admiral has raised more than £32,000 for the Intensive Care Society by taking part in a stay at home half marathon challenge. Admiral were one of the first major UK motor insurers to offer its customers partial refunds and waived any motoring claims excess fees for NHS or emergency service workers.
Fred Garzoni & Imre berger
Co-founders of the Bristol-based business have developed their capabilities to produce potential vaccines to counter the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The biotech company Imophoron – which is based in the Unit DX Incubator – has produced multiple COVID-19 vaccine candidates, based on its novel vaccine platform, within weeks of the virus sequence being made available. Imophoron has joined the University of Bristol’s COVID-19 Emergency Research Group, and is leading on vaccine development. The test for the first candidate is ongoing.
Liniar (HL Plastics)
Thurley led his senior management team in exemplary fashion during the COVID-19 crisis, including making the tough decision to close down facilities for the safety of the 500-plus workforce, when many others in manufacturing were undecided. As well as working to make sure staff were safe and well, he ensured suppliers were paid and customers were kept updated throughout the temporary closure.
During the crisis, Thurley agreed investment of £20,000 to pivot operations and produce much-needed PPE in the form of protective visors. Volunteers from across the workforce were eager to help and the visors continue to be donated free of charge to front line workers and the NHS.
Professor Steve West
Vice-Chancellor at the University of the West of England (UWE Bristol), Steve West, was instrumental in helping convert the Exhibition and Conference Centre (ECC) on UWE Bristol’s Frenchay campus into a 300-bed temporary hospital, to provide hundreds of extra beds if local services need them during the peak of coronavirus pandemic. The NHS Nightingale Hospital was fully operational and treating patients from April 2020 and followed the creation of similar temporary hospitals in London, Manchester and Birmingham. The hospital is run by nurses, doctors, managers and other staff from different NHS organisations across the South West. It serves as a support hospital for people all across the region.
Sukhendu Pal & Steve Garnett
As the pandemic is destroying start-ups and young companies in the capital, Funding London’s lead mentor, Pal, is fighting on the frontline, saving them from bankruptcies and helping them plan for their recoveries. The crisis has created the opportunity for Funding London’s lead mentor, Garnett, to provide direction, meaning and support to their portfolio of 150 young companies when they need it the most. In addition, Steve has made generous contributions to his local hospital during this difficult time.
Thornton & Ross
Under the leadership of Executive VP Scarlett-Smith, Thornton & Ross (T&R), part of the STADA Group, has donated over 100,000 free samples to healthcare professionals throughout the UK from two of its leading skincare ranges – Cetraben and Zeroderma – both of which help to minimise the discomfort of irritated skin caused by prolonged use of facemasks, frequent hand washing and sanitising. As a leading prescription emollient company, Yorkshire-based T&R will continue to support NHS frontline heroes with free samples as they work around the clock to care for patients during the coronavirus pandemic. They have also donated 14,000 bottles of its disinfectant Zoflora, to help staff at local hospitals eliminate bacteria and viruses on door handles and cars before driving home.
Like many manufacturers and businesses during this pandemic, Globus Industries has pivoted from its usual day-to-day business to now supplying the NHS with much needed PPE equipment. After discussions with various contacts and suppliers, Globus owner Decker reached out to the NHS to offer the PPE equipment that they were crying out for.
Two planes loaded with N95 3 ply masks and KN95 face masks arrived at Heathrow, all having been ‘Splash Tested’ by SGS and an independent UK verifier to meet all EU required standards. These were then sent directly to NHS Daventry Central to be immediately dispatched to frontline workers.
Malcolm Hall MBE
Source Control Masks is the trading name of Mansfield-based industrial supplies business Hall-Fast. The business normally exports to over 100 countries, however, in light of the outbreak, it has refocused efforts to support and increase UK supplies of face coverings for the British public. With the assistance of DIT advisers, the business is working to secure thousands of face coverings from Asia. The company has sold over 8,000 so far and has said its aim is to keep the UK public safe, whilst ensuring medical PPE is reserved for healthcare workers. The business is donating £1 for every face covering sold online to the Sherwood Forest Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, their local NHS trust, and has raised £2,160 so far. Hall-Fast previously donated excess PPE stock to the value of £2,000 to their local NHS back in March as lockdown restrictions began.
Blend Network completed its two largest-ever deals during the pandemic, highlighting its commitment to supporting SME property developers who are building more affordable homes to sustain the UK’s national and regional housebuilding effort. The largest loan, worth £2.25m, was funded in four days. Meanwhile, its second largest loan, £1.95m, was funded in two days. The story behind Blend Network’s action was the realisation that COVID-19 was likely to inflict an unprecedented damage to the UK’s housing market. As a result, Blend Network decided not only to remain committed to continuing to support SME property developers, but to step-up its lending efforts to the businesses that needed it.
At Llamau – a Cardiff-based charity – their mission is to end homelessness for women and young people in Wales. They decided not to close any of their services during COVID-19. MSS group contacted BITC looking to donate PPE equipment for local Charities. Llamau received 300 litres of hand sanitiser from MSS Group and 400 litres of disinfectant to help those in need. Mayne and the MSS Group donated £10,000 to help the charity during the crisis.
Pathfindr, the asset tracking and IoT tech specialist, has developed a wearable personal safety device to assist workplaces in meeting social distancing protocols. The Safe Distancing Assistant has successfully undergone testing with several large UK manufacturers and is now being launched more widely as a training and enforcement device for safe personal distancing in the workplace, including factories, warehouses, logistics hubs and construction sites.
The lightweight devices use ultra-wideband, low power technology to scan for nearby colleagues, providing a full 360-degree field of detection. The devices then emit a short audible alarm or vibration when wearers move within two meters of one another. The device aims to help safely continue essential operations, while also providing peace of mind to staff when it comes to their own safety.
In just two weeks during the early stages of the coronavirus-enforced lockdown, BrewDog went from not knowing anything about hand sanitiser to becoming a fully approved supplier to the NHS. The unicorn business, known for its range of IPAs and beers, made over 100,000 units of its own hand sanitser – all for free. The firm received numrous requests from other businesses looking for more information on their process and how they make the sanitiser. They then shared their plans with any firm looking to join the fight against the virus.
A new brand of antibacterial hand gel – Palm – has been launched by the Founder of children’s bath time range, Good Bubble, in response to the increasing demand for hand sanitisers caused by the global coronavirus pandemic. Palm is a hypoallergenic, moisturising, antibacterial hand gel, with over 60% alcohol content that kills 99.99% of bacteria while it cleans, freshens, and protects the hands. The range comes from Amy Wordsworth, who featured on Dragons Den in 2014 and received the backing of Deborah Meaden.
As customers closed their doors due to the pandemic, demand for Good Bubble reduced. At the same time there was a huge demand for hand sanitisers so, as they already had the components in stock and an effective formulation ready, they decided to diversify and help the community.