I believe the strongest social impact strategies leverage a company’s core expertise and reach. I like to think about this as a company activating its “special sauce” – the unique skill sets, research & development processes, creative approaches, communications channels, business networks and other assets – toward addressing complex problems.

Identifying and applying “what you do best” is a fundamental practice for companies designing social impact strategies. As business leaders around the world now consider how to respond to the wide range of immediate and long-term challenges raised by the pandemic, adhering to this mantra is more important than ever.

As COVID-19 impacts our world, many companies are going beyond philanthropy and responding by harnessing their talent and infrastructure to address health, basic needs (food, clothing, shelter), economic and educational needs for individuals and communities.  From data science technology companies mining COVID-19 records that inform virus response strategies to manufacturers shifting facilities toward creating face masks and protective gear for healthcare workers, the engine of strategic response is in motion.

Every company, no matter the size or industry, can act with focus and intentionality. Having foresight and confidence are essential to save and protect lives and propel us to and through recovery. Here are some of examples of companies focusing on what they do best to address COVID-19 that have inspired me:    

Life Science Companies Team Up for Vaccines:

Connecting the technical skills, knowledge and talent within life science companies is a crucial source of problem-solving and innovation to address COVID-19. 15 companies have come together with the Gates Foundation, leaders from all sectors and WHO to move quickly to address the creation of diagnostics, treatment and vaccines for COVID-19. In my backyard of Boston, Alnylam Pharmaceuticals is partnering with Vir Biotechnology to develop therapeutics for Coronavirus infections, including COVID-19.

Dyson Designs Ventilator for Severe COVID-19 Cases:

When it became apparent that ventilators were critically needed in the U.K., Prime Minister Boris Johnson, a patient himself, called upon Dyson to help. The company whose cordless vacuums and hair care products never disappoint embraced the challenge to design a ventilator. Within less than ten days the company designed a ventilator for treating severe COVID-19 patients that could be produced quickly and with significant volume. They are manufacturing 15,000, of which 10,000 will go to U.K. hospitals (per the government’s ask) and the other 5,000 will be donated to international efforts to fight the virus.

Unilever Donates Soap and Launches Global Hand Washing Campaign:

In addition to vast donations of its food, soap, personal hygiene, and home cleaning products across the globe, the largest producer of soap is conducting a global COVID-19 hand washing campaign. In partnership with and funded by both the UK government and Unilever, the partners aim to reach 1 billion people with awareness, education and programming to ensure people are washing their hands with soap regularly and disinfecting surfaces. This type of consumer education work has been core to the Unilever soap brands social impact efforts for decades. Their expertise is especially important now as they can reach populations with little or no sanitation or poor health systems to stop the spread of COVID-19. 

Apparel/Footwear Companies Make Masks:

New Balance and L.L. Bean, both with an impressive track record of keeping its manufacturing in New England, are simultaneously employing their local employees and aiding communities by transitioning their factory efforts from footwear and apparel to masks and other gear to protect healthcare workers. 

Beauty Companies Produce Sanitizer:

For decades the beauty industry has been on the forefront of addressing critical social issues. Starting in Europe and now here in the U.S., perfume and cosmetic brands from L’Oréal to Coty to Estée Lauder, are applying their skills to produce hand sanitizers in their factories delivering product to support local needs

Thank you to the leaders and workforce inside these and the many other brands that have stepped up to put their expertise in action. Onward with creative problem-solving applying what we do best.

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