Across the world, everyone is at home (we hope). Alone with our thoughts and wondering how we got here. Well, we know how we got here. WE did this. But WE can also fix it. Could this new way of life, one that has us examining the way we live our day to day life, be approaching the new normal? As we rethink the way we consume things, how we source our food, and what health means to us, we have to wonder: could this be a positive thing? Is this the reset that planet needs?
There is no doubt about it — businesses across the board are suffering amid the onslaught of COVID-19. From the stigma surrounding the virus, the travel bans, and the social-distancing measures to mitigate the virus’ spread, many businesses and brands have been forced to shutter their doors, with many furloughing staff while they weather the storm — waiting to see what happens next. There might be some hope for large corporations with enough cash flow to carry them forward, or for brands based in wealthy countries that are stimulating the economy through massive bailouts — but what about the artisans in Nepal and the dressmaker from the hill tribe in Thailand, who is paying them out?
By nature, conscious brands are extremely small businesses, often living month to month and with staff in the single digits. One month without sales is enough to put them out of business and leave staff unemployed. Even if a brand can survive, their supply chains are typically local, and chances are they cannot. If their supply chains are abroad, they almost definitely cannot.
Small businesses and conscious brands are teetering on the brink. So are small social enterprises. Our community is suffering. As we sit at home, wondering what we can do, we can help. Based on the information we collected, we put together some information we hope will help conscious brands weather the coronavirus shit storm.
IF YOU’RE A CONSCIOUS BRAND, THIS IS WHAT YOU CAN DO
If you can afford it, donate
Are you one of the lucky ones that provide an essential service or have found some ingenious way to stay afloat? Then consider donating a portion of your profits to those that are either less fortunate or at the frontlines of the fight. French brands like Sezane are giving 10% of their global sales to an emergency fund set up to support French hospitals. Everlane is a sustainable fashion brand that is donating all profits from its ‘100% Human’ collection to Feeding America’s COVID-19 Response Fund, which provides supplies to food banks across America. It’s worth mentioning, however, that Everlane isn’t perfect (no one is), and have had to lay off employees as a direct result of the coronavirus.
Or, donate your services
Don’t have anything to sell or money to give? Helping can also include offering language lessons or cooking for the elderly. Many brands are transferring skills from the drawing-room to the frontlines such as garment manufacturers who are halting their production and making protective masks instead. Reformation is one of those brands, who are on a city-wide mission in LA to leverage the city’s manufacturing facilities and garment workers to make protective masks for essential workers like grocery clerks and food delivery people. They will further lend their expertise in production, providing quality assurance and sourcing funding for the initiative. What can you offer to your community?
Shut down your workplace
From automakers to assembly lines to hotels, industries all over the world are putting their health and safety of their employees over profits and shutting down. Bloomberg reported that it’s the biggest factory shut down since World War II. This is reverberating across the conscious community too, with brands like beloved sustainable retailer Reformation closing its factories in LA to keep its employees safe. If your business cannot maintain social distancing within its doors, and you’re not providing an essential service to your community, consider putting your team first and shutting shop. Use this time to develop new ideas, tighten your ship, update your website and get your brand ready to burst through the door in fine form when it’s safe to open them again.
Let your employees work from home
Aren’t we all surprised at how well we’re working from home? It’s making us question the hours we spent in the boardroom, to be sure. Offices are necessary and often enjoyable if you’re with the right team. But if you have the right team behind you, efficiency and productivity shouldn’t waver at home. And there’s more; working from home is the greener alternative, reduces the strain on your communities resources and keep transportation traffic-free for essential workers and emergencies. Go home, and then go big.
Explore grants & subsidies
We understand that it’s easier said than done when it comes to shutting down — the economic impact of closing a small business even for a day can be suicide. Fortunately, many companies, foundations and governments around the world are shelling out money in the form of grants or subsidies. There are plenty of big businesses that are using the opportunity to do good; Facebook is one of them. The company is giving $100 million in grants to small businesses affected by the coronavirus. A quick Google search also turns up a plethora of organisations around the world that are mobilising efforts to help small businesses impacted by the effects of the coronavirus. Take a look at what’s being offered in your community; there are more and more people generously joining the fight every day.
Offer to advertise…for free
Maybe you have an engaging media platform or social media audience that you can reach. Use your influence to help brands via advertising or information posts. This is one way that Facebook is delivering on its promise of $100 million, which will be paid out through a combination of cash and advertising credits. That favourite cosy restaurant that you go to all the time for lunch with the best coffee you’ve ever had? Maybe it’s time to say thank you and send some traffic their way. Think about what you have and how you can use it for the greater good.
Organise online events
One of the biggest takeaways for businesses in the last few weeks has been the power of the internet. Live streaming has evolved into something greater than just Instagram into a powerful tool that is helping brands create tighter connections with their audience despite being even further away. Take fashion, for example. Last week, Shanghai live-streamed the world’s first fashion week. Renamed ‘Cloud Fashion Week’, 2020 fall collections were streamed to 800 million Tmall active users, an Alibaba affiliate that pioneered a see-it-buy-it technology. One brand reported that sales jumped 450%. The entertainment industry is also making live streaming work, with events, concerts and even art exhibitions using the digital sphere to keep its momentum. What can we learn from this? Get creative and find a way to connect with your market online that works for you, or someone will probably beat you to it. Whether it be through talks, workshops, networking events, virtual tours, or even parties. Live streaming is quickly evolving and looks set to be an integral part of our future for some time to come.
Talking of online events, GITNB members can participate in our online Earth Day pop-up. We are curating an online marketplace for conscious brands which will be live on our website on Wednesday 22 April. If you’d like to find out more, please email [email protected]
This is not the time to be quiet; our voices are crucial at a time of crisis. Use yours where you can and keep the lines of communication open with your community. Now it is a moment to build your brand authentically, focus on that and not sales tactics. Be transparent with your customers and clients about the good, the bad and the ugly experiences that your brand is enduring — they will appreciate your honesty. Explain to the public how you are helping your community because chances are, someone else can learn from what you’re doing. Send a newsletter, pin a post and take it to Instagram Live. However you chose to do it, people have time to listen right now — we promise.
And for more tips…
Watch this. We recently hosted a digital event in collaboration with Cyril Dhenaut from Elixus, a digital marketing agency, to get some expert insights into what immediate actions businesses can take to help navigate through the pandemic.
IF YOU’RE A CONSCIOUS CONSUMER, THIS IS WHAT YOU CAN DO
Weathering the storm doesn’t just lie in brands being flexible; it means consumers need to adapt to change too. The principles upon which the world is now employing to survive are those that the conscious community have long been practising. But just in case you need a little refresher, here is what can be done from home.
Shop local (and order in)
The small businesses in your area NEED you to shop there. They do not have anyone else. As they struggle to make rent and payroll, without foot traffic, they can only depend on the local community around them. Many healthy restaurants are offering free delivery services (note that this is also a good time to tip your delivery driver a little extra, especially if you’re in a country where they don’t make much) and apparel brands are slashing prices. Coffee shops are turning their cafes into ultra-quick takeaway windows, and small shops are having sales. Amazon might have two-day delivery to your doorstep but as tempting as it is, it’s time to step away and support the brands that are AT your doorstep. Local businesses are the colour of your community; it wouldn’t be the same without them. If there was ever a time to band together to save them, it is now.
Support other conscious brands
Since any form of convenience has been thrown out the door, there couldn’t be a better time to explore all the conscious brands out there that are providing alternatives to everyday things like clothing, food, houseware, beauty and more. We have a robust directory of conscious brands to get your started from across Asia and now Europe. Also, if you have to make a purchase, consider shopping with brands that are giving back to coronavirus relief efforts.
Engage with policy-makers
Don’t let big businesses make the decisions for you. Engage your local policy-makers to do more for the SME community in your area. Social media, letters, email, and phone calls are all important ways to make your message heard. Small businesses need a voice, and you are their lifeline right now, they need your help. As our friends and families are losing their jobs around us, getting that message to legislators could help shape our economic future.
Look for & create entrepreneurship opportunities
Unemployment rates are soaring in markets around the world, but markets are also changing, and new opportunities are arising out of the crisis. If you know someone with a skill set that might be needed in relief efforts, make a recommendation — it could be the difference between unemployment and employment.
Don’t ask for refunds
Did you have tickets to something that was cancelled? Or are you trying to recover the money you lost when your gym closed down? If you can, consider rethinking your request — your gym might need it more than you right now. Also, if you need to cancel something, think about postponing instead.
Buy credit or gift certificates
We’ve been seeing an influx of lifestyle industries selling vouchers for future services. From airlines to hotels and restaurants, businesses are offering hugely discounted vouchers for future use. The revenue from the sale puts cash in their pocket today to pay rent and staff salaries and helps you buy an experience for a better future.
Stay home, stay healthy, positive and do things you’ve always wanted to do
Most importantly, stay healthy. That doesn’t just mean stay indoors and isolate, but keep your mind healthy too. Take advantage of this downtime and take care of the housekeeping you’ve meaning to do for five years. Read those books that are collecting dust on your bookshelf, clean your drawers out, paint the walls, build a website, write in a journal, learn how to cook a new dish, or learn how to speak a new language — the opportunities are endless.