Video Interview: How CG and Retail Can Help During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Lisa Johnston
Senior Editor
Lisa Johnston profile picture

Offers from the private sector to help healthcare workers during their fight against COVID-19 are pouring in, but many of the recipients of this goodwill are too neck-deep in crisis to effectively leverage them.

As part of the Curb the Panic webinar series, in which CGT and RIS examine the solutions for navigating the current landscape, CGT senior editor Alarice Rajagopal invited a group of healthcare and industry professionals to share what they’re seeing on the front lines, as well as insight on meaningful ways the consumer goods industry can help.

The “How CG and Retail Can Help During COVID-19 Pandemic” video roundtable was moderated by Doug Rammel, a former tech executive in healthcare and sporting goods and now a venture capitalist in healthcare, technology, CPG and retail. Sharing insight were Sally Mason Boemer, CFO of Massachusetts General Hospital; Dr. Dean Smith, dean of the LSU School of Public Health; and Daryl Brewster, CEO of Chief Executives for Corporate Purpose (CECP).

Left to right: Doug Rammel, Daryl Brewster, Sally Mason Boemer, Dr. Dean Smith

The group shared individual perspectives of their current situations — all significantly challenging — as well as the ways they’ve been managing the offers to help.

Smith described New Orleans as being in a crisis stage for COVID-19, noting that it was all hands on deck for his facility. “Public health is one of those areas that when there's nothing happening, we think it's a terrible waste of an investment,” he said. “When a crisis happens, it’s why aren’t there twice as many of these people involved?”

Boemer said Mass General was simply overwhelmed with offers of help, including those trying to connect them with more established distributors of PPE, innovators who wanted to retool their operations, or those who wanted to donate food for employee appreciation.

Her team moved quickly to set up an organized portal to manage the offers, with seven people working it each day to just sort the requests and to acknowledge the partners coming forward.

While not all offers are able to assist a facility of MGH’s size, Boemer’s team has been redirecting some to help nursing homes or other smaller organizations.

“The innovative space is really what's just so exciting,” she said. “Whether it's 3D production of N95 masks, or reprocessing masks, there’s just some really good stuff I think is going to come out of this that'll help the future of healthcare.”

“What we need from the business community is to find ways for people to stay in their lane — do what they do but do it efficiently and remotely.”
Dr. Dean Smith , LSU School of Public Health

Brewster said CECP is fielding scores of questions each day from companies seeking information, best practices and ways to be helpful. In turn, the organization is working on convening companies around topics by industry, issue, geography to have conversations about what they can learn from others.

When asked how businesses can help, LSU’s Smith noted that finding ways for employees to work remotely is the No. 1 priority to help prevent the spread of the virus. Beyond that: “What we need from the business community is to find ways for people to stay in their lane — do what they do but do it efficiently and remotely.”

He cited examples of hotels opening up living spaces for the area’s homeless population, restaurants providing meals to first responders, and distillers altering their operations to make hand sanitizer.

“I think there's probably a lot that every company can do if they can find a way to coordinate and find out how they can fit in,” he said.

Brewster echoed this, adding that addressing employee needs during this period of furloughs and difficult front-line working environments is particularly critical.

Watch the full video interview to learn more about how companies can help during this period, including the unique partnerships that can be formed.