What businesses have made a positive impact on society during the COVID-19 pandemic?

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Across the world, businesses of all sizes and sectors have felt the full force of the coronavirus outbreak, with many having to furlough staff, or even close their doors for the final time.

As the nation struggles to come to terms with the unknowns that face the business community, several companies have gone above and beyond to be there for their staff, the public and even the healthcare system.

Business Leader has listed 10 leading businesses or entrepreneurs that have made a positive impact since the lockdown.

Aston Martin

Aston Martin joined the campaign to provide Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to frontline NHS workers during the Coronavirus crisis. The British luxury carmaker produced new respiratory protection devices, protective visors and gowns.

One of the most hazardous procedures for intensive care staff treating COVID-19 patients is the intubation and extubation process, so an extra layer of protection during respiratory procedures has been sought.

Working with its project partner, Multimatic, Aston Martin manufactured a new respiratory protection device. This intubation shield is, in simple terms, a Perspex box that goes over a patient’s upper body during procedures, protecting the medical staff but also allowing them the access they need to the patient.

This brand new design was turned around in a matter of days and was trialled at the Royal London Hospital.

Aston Martin Lagonda President and Group Chief Executive, Andy Palmer, said: “The local community is very important to Aston Martin, so we are delighted to be able to help our local hospitals. The frontline NHS workers are protecting us from COVID-19, so we want to do what we can and try to protect them by supplying visors and gowns.

“Times of crisis are also times of great innovation and we are delighted to be working with Multimatic and the MTC to produce the intubation shield for the intensive care staff. Everyone we approached stepped up without hesitation and they should all be proud.”

BrewDog

British beer brand and unicorn business, BrewDog, has been using its distilleries to produce hand sanitiser.

With the ongoing coronavirus outbreak, the company distributed thousands of bottles of its ‘Punk Sanitiser’.

BrewDog worked with their global team to get this product available as soon as possible, and kept the world updated through its social media platforms. The company gave away the bottles without charge to those who needed it the most.

A BrewDog spokesperson said: “To help with the shortages, we have just started working on making hand sanitiser at our distillery in Scotland. We are determined to do everything we can to try and help as many people as possible stay safe. It’s time to keep it clean.”

British Land

The national firm, which owns and operates shopping centres across the UK, suspended its dividend and deferred £40m in rents this quarter for its SME companies that rent space with them.

The firm deferred March’s quarter day rents and spread repayment over the six quarters from September 2020. The financial impact of this is expected to be up to £40m.

At the time, British Land added it would release smaller retail, food and beverage and leisure customers from rental obligations until June 2020, costing a further £3m.

Domino’s

Pizza takeaway chain Domino’s announced that during April and May, they will be surprising key workers with £4m worth of pizza.

In an email to customers, they stated: “Why? Because we want to say a huge thank you to the incredible front-line heroes who are keeping the UK going.

“So, to all our healthcare teams, emergency services, social care crews – every single key worker – we know what an important job you do. Our teams will be surprising as many of you as we can with piping hot pizzas, where you need it most – at work.

“We’ll be making special surprise deliveries to hospitals, care homes, emergency hubs and many more key worker sites all over the country. Don’t worry, your delivery will of course be contact-free. So, keep an eye out – we might just surprise you.”

Dyson

Back at the end of March, Dyson announced that it had designed its own ventilator from scratch in just ten days – and would be used across the UK to tackle the outbreak.

Called the CoVent, Dyson provided 10,000 to the UK and a further 4,000 ventilators abroad.

The company, headed by globally renowned British inventor and entrepreneur, Sir James Dyson, said it had designed a new type of ventilator in response to a call on behalf of the government.

Hundreds of Dyson engineers have reportedly been working round the clock to design the ventilators from scratch – following discussions between Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Dyson himself.

Although they are no longer going to be used in the UK, Dyson’s efforts to tackle the virus will be taken abroad.

In a message to staff, Dyson said: “Mercifully they are not required, but we don’t regret our contribution to the national effort for one moment. I have some hope that our ventilator may yet help the response in other countries, but that requires further time and investigation.

“We have spent around £20m on this project to date, but we will not accept any public money. The team have worked 24/7 to design and manufacture a sophisticated ventilator in a short timeframe – I hope they can spend this weekend with their families who will not have seen them for weeks.”

Jack Dorsey

Jack Dorsey, the founder of Twitter and Square, has said he will donate $1bn (£810m) to help tackle the coronavirus pandemic. The donation represents approximately 28% of his personal wealth.

The US is the most affected country by coronavirus and Dorsey follows Jeff Bezos (Amazon) and Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook), who have both also made huge donations towards the relief effort.

Dorsey has not said where he would like the money to be spent, but the US has a shortage of ventilators and personal protective equipment – and thousands of business are struggling economically.

Dorsey will use shares he owns in Square to fund the, which will be distributed through the Start Small Foundation.

Leon Restaurants

British fast-food chain, Leon Restaurants, announced in March that it would be turning its 65 UK restaurants into shops, selling meals via both click-and-collect and delivery.

Due to the ongoing and increasing pressure on supermarkets across the country, Leon took measures to help plug the gap for food for families and key workers.

John Vincent, the founder and CEO of Leon Restaurants said: “There are two engines to food supply in the UK. The first is the supermarkets and the second is the restaurant trade. The two are fairly independent of each other.

“A lot of people in the industry are just giving up and shutting up shop. But we think this way we can keep 60% of our stores open and keep food production going.”

Morrisons

With businesses across the world removing staff to help reduce overheads, British supermarket chain Morrisons announced that it would create a further 3,500 jobs to grow its delivery services during the coronavirus outbreak.

The retailer announced plans to recruit 2,500 new pickers and drivers, plus an additional further 1,000 staff in its distribution centres as demand for home deliveries grows with people moving into protective isolation at home.

The store also created more delivery slots for customers, setting up a call centre for those without internet, and launched a new range of food parcels.

David Potts, chief executive of Morrisons, said: “We expect the days, weeks and months ahead to be very testing and we are determined to do our bit.

“These measures will support our very hard-working colleagues, enable us to provide more food to more people in their homes and create opportunities for people whose jobs are affected by the coronavirus.”

Ralph Lauren

International fashion brand Ralph Lauren revealed that it would produce a quarter of a million masks and 25,000 isolation gowns in support of the fight against coronavirus.

The Ralph Lauren Foundation also announced that it would donate £8.3m towards the global response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

A statement from the company read: “In the spirit of togetherness, we rise. The Ralph Lauren Corporate Foundation is committing $10m to COVID-19 relief. Now more than ever, supporting each other in this time of need has become our mission.”

Ron Dennis CBE

British businessmen, Ron Dennis CBE, launched a not-for-profit initiative to feed thousands of critical NHS workers with meals.

The nutritious and ready-to-eat meals are available free of charge to ICU teams, anaesthetic teams and A&E staff, who are unable to leave their clinical areas during their 12-hour shifts.

This service enables them to stay close to wards at all times without having to change out of protective clothing.

The initiative, called SalutetheNHS.org, has brought together a group of leading food, logistics, packaging and other specialists, and has mobilised a largescale, professional operation.

The goal is to serve 1 million meals to key frontline NHS workers between April and June, both those working in hospitals and others who are infected and self-isolating at home.

The Dennis family is donating £1m to seed fund the initiative through their Dream Chasing Foundation, which is a charity, alongside £500,000 in match-funding.

They have been supported by Absolute Taste, one of Britain’s largest catering groups with its state-of-the-art kitchen in Bicester, Oxfordshire, while logistic support is being provided by Yodel, the leading parcel delivery service.

Tesco will donate all the food and ingredients for the one million meals.

Ron Dennis CBE, co-founder of SalutetheNHS.org, comments: “This is a time when all of us, individuals and businesses alike, need to stand up and be counted in the effort to combat COVID-19. We’re all in this together.

“I am delighted to be leading this initiative to help ensure that vital NHS workers have nutritious meals while they work every hour in this fight. It means they have one less thing to worry about. We have called this SalutetheNHS.org because I think we are all in awe of the work they are doing to save lives.

“I would like to thank Tesco, Absolute Taste, Yodel, Leeways, Domestic & General, Team Rubicon, Hunter Design, Withers and Maitland/AMO, for the enormous support they are giving.”

If you own a business (or know of a company/entrepreneur) that has made a positive impact on society during these troubling times, please let us know! Email editor@businessleader.co.uk.

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