Nestlé, Unilever respond to coronavirus pandemic

By Katy Askew contact

- Last updated on GMT

Pic: GettyImages-GemPhotography
Pic: GettyImages-GemPhotography

Related tags: coronavirus, COVID-19, COVID, Nestlé, Unilever

Food industry giants Nestlé and Unilever have unveiled how they are responding to the COVID-19 pandemic to support their suppliers and the communities in which they operate globally.

Unilever: Safeguarding suppliers and workers incomes

Unilever announced a ‘wide-ranging’ set of measures to support global and national efforts to tackle the coronavirus pandemic.

The company said its actions are designed to help ‘protect the lives and livelihoods of its multiple stakeholders’ including consumers, customers, suppliers and its own workforce.

Given the importance of good hygiene to stem the spread of the virus, Unilever said it will contribute €100m to help fight the pandemic through donations of soap, sanitiser and bleach. This includes product donations of at least €50m in soap and sanitiser to the World Economic Forum’s COVID Action Platform. The Knorr-to-Magnum manufacturer also said that it will donate food to relief efforts.

The company is also offering €500m of cash flow relief across its extended value chain. This includes provision for early payments to the ‘most valuable’ small and medium suppliers to help them with financial liquidity. The company said it is also extending credit to ‘selected small-scale retail customers’.

Unilever also made a commitment to protect its workforce from ‘sudden drops in pay’, as a result of market disruption or being unable to perform their role, for up to three months. This includes employees, contractors and others work on Unilever sites, on a full or part-time basis. This will apply to workers not already covered by government plans or by their direct employer, Unilever said.

CEO Alan Jope paid tribute to the efforts Unilever employees are already making. “We are deeply saddened by the terrible impact that coronavirus is wreaking on lives and livelihoods everywhere. The world is facing its greatest trial in decades. We have seen the most incredible response from the Unilever team so far, especially those on the front line of our operations in factories, distribution centres and stores.

“We hope that our donation of €100m of soap, sanitiser, bleach and food will make a significant contribution towards protecting people’s lives, and that by helping to safeguard our workers’ incomes and jobs, we are giving some peace of mind during these uncertain times. Our strong cash flow and balance sheet mean that we can, and should, give this additional support.”

Nestlé: Working ‘tirelessly’ to maintain food supply

Swiss food giant Nestlé was quick to stress it will continue to meet global demand for food products.

“Our people are fully committed and are working tirelessly to ensure that supply is maintained. We are working very hard to keep them healthy and safe,​” the company said in a statement.

Nestlé revealed it has introduced ‘enhanced’ safety measures at all its sites, with a focus on frontline workers in its factories, quality labs and distribution centres. Where needed, the company is offering free meals and transport to staff to reduce the risk of contracting COVID-19. And to support employees who do get sick, Nestlé said it is putting in place ‘generous sick leave arrangements’ and cash loans for those in financial distress. Hourly and salaried staff impacted by temporary closures will be paid in full for a minimum of 12 weeks.

In order to support its suppliers through the crisis, Nestlé said it is providing ‘prompt and pragmatic’ backing.

The company is also leveraging its global footprint to support local relief efforts in the communities in which it operates. This includes support for charities, medical institutions and other organisations on the frontline of the pandemic. The company is donating to food banks and delivery organisations.

“The COVID-19 pandemic is a global problem and consequently we are offering help on the ground everywhere, drawing on our extensive presence and experience in 187 countries,”​ CEO Mark Schneider explained.

Working with physicians, Nestlé said it has developed new tailored COVID-19 medical nutrition and supplement treatment protocols.

Building on these efforts, Nestlé announced today that it is partnering with the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) in response to its emergency appeal.

Nestlé will initially take four actions to support emergency services and caregivers. These include:

  • Donating food, medical nutrition and bottled water
  • Deploying all logistics capabilities from its out-of-home business to support the needs of the IFRC
  • Donating CHF10m for ‘immediate deployment in countries where it is needed most’
  • A pledge to match 1:1 any donations to IFRC

Schneider concluded: "Now is the time to demonstrate the values of the Nestlé family. I am deeply impressed and humbled by what our team has accomplished in order to support individuals and communities affected by this crisis.”

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