Author: Mary Mazzoni
(Image: Face masks come off the assembly line at a Ford plant in Michigan, part of the company's efforts to retool in response to COVID-19.)
When it comes to corporate action in the face of a global crisis, it's one thing to write a check. Monetary donations are surely helpful for the nonprofits and community groups being pushed to the brink by the coronavirus pandemic, but most consider payouts in the millions of dollars as table stakes moves for multibillion-dollar companies.
A smaller group is going further by getting creative to retool their operations, supply chains, people and products to produce critical supplies needed by those on the front lines. This is by no means a comprehensive list, but these 15 companies stood out to us over the past six weeks.
Soon after the crisis hit, fast-fashion giant H&M began rearranging its supply chain to source and produce protective equipment for healthcare workers on the front lines. The first round of 100,000 face masks was delivered to Spanish and Italian hospitals two weeks ago, and an H&M supplier is in the process of producing 1 million long-sleeve, protective aprons for Swedish hospitals, the company wrote on LinkedIn.
While ramping up production of its N95 respirator masks, Honeywell is temporarily shifting operations at two chemical manufacturing plants to produce hand sanitizer. Sites in Muskegon, Michigan, and Seelze, Germany, will produce sanitizer over the next two months for donation to the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and Germany's Saxony Ministry of Health, Social Affairs and Equality, according to the company.
Los Angeles-based sustainable fashion brand Reformation connected with Mayor Eric Garcetti to form LA Protects, an effort to mobilize local manufacturers to make 5 million face masks for use in the city. The indie brand converted its LA factory to produce masks using fabrics from its nearby warehouse, and it's recruiting other garment manufacturers in the city to do the same.
As is generally the case on this list, the masks are not medical-grade and are meant to be used by individuals, patients, workers in essential sectors and non-medical staff in hospitals, according to LA protects. The initiative partnered with Kaiser Permanente to develop design specifications to ensure the non-medical masks are effective for their purposes. Reformation, in particular, is focusing on homeless shelters.
Luxury retailer Nordstrom is the single largest employer of tailors in the U.S. With the help of an existing partner, Kaas Tailored, members of Nordstrom's alteration teams in Washington, Oregon, Texas, California, New York, Illinois, New Jersey, Florida and Washington, D.C. are on a mission to sew nearly 1 million masks. They'll be routed to frontline healthcare workers across two major hospital networks,