Examining Corporate Citizenship: How Ride-sharing Companies Respond to COVID-19? What They Promise – and How It Turns Out

G&A Institute Team Note
We continue to bring you news of private (corporate and business), public and social sector developments as organizations in the three societal sectors adjust to the emergency.  This is post #12 in the series, “Excellence in Corporate Citizenship on Display in the Coronavirus Crisis” – April 6 2020    #WeRise2FightCOVID-19   “Corporate Purpose – Virus Crisis”

By Yuyou Chen – Sustainability Reporting Analyst Intern at G&A Institute

Just four months after surfacing in Wuhan, China, the Coronavirus has been spread all over the world and affected about 1.3 million people in total to date.

Up until April 6, 2020, the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has reported 330,8919 COVID-19 cases and 8,910 deaths in the United States. CDC has recommended statewide citizens to practice social distancing and working from home.

With less on-site working, there is a sharp decline in the usual daily commuter activity. According to the Cities Commuter Activities report by Visual Capitalist, Los Angeles and New York experienced 95% and 97% reduction respectively in commuter activity respectively over the past three months.

The same thing is happening to the driver’s side. Ride-sharing companies face challenges in keeping their drivers at work.

Uber and Lyft in the Crisis

While some Uber and Lyft drivers who work on a part-time basis refuse to take any orders due to infection concerns, other full-time drivers may still stay on the frontlines to serve travelers for basic needs – or, they will face unemployment.

Ride-sharing, featured with convenient apps and affordable prices, has become a popular mode of commuting among people nowadays. With algorithms matching passengers to nearby drivers, the businesses are operated based on sufficient numbers and balance between commuters and drivers.

Uber and Lyft are two leading North America-based ride-sharing companies, both of which are headquartered in San Francisco, California.

For the past month, ride-sharing companies experienced a slight turndown in the stock market: For Lyft, share prices are down 2.00% (Nasdaq: LYFT); for Uber, down 3.63% (NYSE:UBER).

While each company declares that it puts well-being and safety of employees and customers as priority during the COVID-19 crisis, they set out somewhat differentiated business and risk management strategies.

Similarity: both companies state they enforce cleaning practices among their drivers and partially suspend their operations in some cases.

Looking at Uber

Uber says on their official website that they will temporarily suspend the accounts of riders or drivers who “confirmed to have contracted or been exposed to COVID‑19”.

Uber provides drivers with disinfectants to keep their cars clean for free, with manufacturers and distributors keeping enough cleaning supply. In particular, the surfaces being touched most often should be wiped.

In addition, Uber enforces “no contact” policy in their sub-brand – UberEats – specializing in local food delivery.

With the social distancing order from California Governor Gavin Newsom, the state’s residents are encouraged to work at home.

UberEats expects an increase in demand for food delivery given the less commuting population. To support local restaurant businesses, UberEats waived the delivery fee for more than 100,000 restaurants in North America.

For safety concerns, they allow customers to ask for leaving food at the door by leaving a note in the app. Food delivery companies like Doordash and Grubhub undertake similar policies. UberEats also provides free meals to health care workers, according to JUMP website.

Looking at Lyft

Similar to Uber, Lyft also says in their official website that they will distribute hand sanitizers and other cleaning supplies to their drivers.

Further, to comply with California state order of social distancing, Lyft paused shared riding in all metropolitan markets, including San Francisco and Los Angeles. They also enforce cleaning activities in their bikes and scooters.

Lyft has established the COVID-19 fund to help drivers who are diagnosed with the Coronavirus disease survive the individual quarantine. (Uber also builds an employee relief fund for impacted restaurant workers.)

However, it turns out that Uber and Lyft are unable to guarantee their sick leave compensation at this moment, according to CNET reporting.

What Is Happening With the Local Drivers?

CNET recently spoke with three Uber drivers and one Lyft driver — all from San Francisco — who exhibited COVID-19 or other disease symptoms and had asked for paid leave. All of them said their companies need an extended period of time to review and process requests for sick leave.

Similar situations are reported to be happening in New York, Illinois and Washington State.

According to The Washington Post, such delay in unemployment aid issuance resides in the fact that “gig” workers are categorized as independent contractors.

In contrast to full-time laborers, they are not eligible for unemployment benefits such as paid leave and health insurance under the current U.S labor system. Without guaranteed labor protection, the Coronavirus has been posing a threat to their economic survival.

While the U.S. Congress and local government officials seem to be progressing to list self-employed labors to be protected under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, an Economic Securities (CARES) Act, the realization of unemployment benefit issuance still depends on the corporate themselves.

The Coronavirus infections are increasing at this moment, and the spread across the United States is projected to slow down no earlier than the next two months. It will certainly further affect the economy of the ride-sharing companies financially.

While struggling to maintain financial stability, the ride-sharing companies still need to spend time prioritizing drivers and customers’ interests and concerns in facing up the unprecedented challenge.

In the midst of bad news, a glimmer of good news: The Coronavirus is stressful to all of us, of course, but viewing it from an environmental perspective, the nation’s overall GHG emission would be reduced due to such a large decline in commuting all over the United States.

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About the Author
Yuyou Chen works as a Sustainability Reporting Analyst Intern at G&A Institute. She is currently a senior working towards a B.S in Environmental Science and Management and a B.A in Economics at the University of California, Davis. She is interested in ESG investing, Sustainability Reporting, and Urban Mobility. She had previous internship experience in a British environmental consulting firm where she engaged on research and analysis of an eco-labeling project for a China paper making company.

Excellence in Corporate Citizenship on Display in the Coronavirus Crisis

by Hank Boerner – Chair & Chief Strategist – G&A Institute and the G&A team   — starting a new conversation about the corporate and investor response the coronavirus crisis…this is the beginning….

These are the times when actions and reactions to crisis helps to define the character of the corporation and shape the public profiles of each of the corporate citizens. For companies, these are not easy times.

Many important decisions are to be made, many priorities set in an environment of unknown unknowns — and there are many stakeholders to be taken care of.  

Employees – Customers – Suppliers – Regulators – Partners – Investors – Lenders – Communities – Civic Leadership.

We are in the age of the stakeholder – beyond the long-time focus on investors only (the Milton Friedman school of shareholder primacy).

Setting the challenge before corporate leaders for us, The New York Times in a story by Jim Tankersley and Ben Casselman, we read:

“Economists fear that by the time the coronavirus pandemic subsides and economic activity resumes, entire industries could be wiped out, proprietors across the country could lose their businesses and millions of workers could find themselves jobless.”

As the Federal government rushes to aid the American society, CEO Chuck Robbins of Cisco put things in perspective in the story: “It’s critical that D.C. do something fast for companies – if you get 80 percent right today, it’s better than waiting a week and getting it 90% right.”

The good news:  Corporations are not waiting – decisions are being made quickly and action is being taken to protect the enterprise – no easy task while protecting the corporate brand, the reputation for being a good corporate citizen, watching out for the investor base and the employee base — and all stakeholders.

We’re starting this commentary in the first week of the crisis breaking through the barriers of doubt and with reality setting in. What are companies doing? How will the decisions made at the top in turn affect the company’s employees, customers, hometowns, suppliers, other stakeholders? Stay tuned.

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March 20, 2020 – Day Four of the National Shutdown in the Coronavirus Crisis…

Outdoor Heroes and Timberland

(The firm is well known for its shoes and boots and out-of-doors gear)

Message to Consumers
At Timberland, we’ve always cared deeply about nature and people.
With this great passion, comes the responsibility to protect the health and well-being of our community. For this reason, to help slow the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus and minimize impact, we’ve decided to temporarily close our stores. All retail employees at these locations will continue to receive full pay and benefits during the closure period.

In the meantime, we can stay in touch through our social channels and your can shop from home at our online store with free shipping.
As an outdoor brand, it’s hard for us to suggest that you stay home, but for now it’s advised. Perhaps use this time to plan your next outdoor adventure. Nature will wait for us. #NATURENEEDSHEROES (end)

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Amazon – Hiring Underway in the Dark Valley of Layoff Land

The giant internet retailer Amazon is set on hiring 100,000 workers for warehouse and delivery services to help the company meet the delivery demand during the crisis period. This could be a relief for workers laid off in key industries – restaurants, hospitality, airlines, amusement parks, and other service industry categories.

The company will create both full and part-time positions, paying a minimum of $15 per hour to $17 per hour in the USA, with similar raises in Canada, the UK and EU states.

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Delivering All Those Packages – FedEx on the Line

FedEx says it will not require recipient to physically sign for deliveries during the crisis in the USA. The company has set up COVID-19 safety page for information: https://www.fedex.com/en-us/coronavirus.html

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Paying for Those Deliveries — Chase Bank for Business – Adjusting Branch Hours

Chase Bank notified customers today that branch hours may be adjusted (for in-person or ATM visits). The bank encourages customers to use the Chase Mobil App (bank from anywhere). The bank explains that the branch teams are using EPA-approved disinfectants for cleaning ATM screens and key pads for customer safety.

“Chase for Business” has a “Business recovery page” for the latest information. Chase is encouraging customers to tune in to the advice at: https://recovery.chase.com/customers  — to keep their contact information current and up to date.

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Valley Bank – Relief for Customers — From the Regional Bankcorp Serving New York, New Jersey, Florida and Alabama.

Announcing Relief Measures:

  • The bank will be increasing debit and credit card limits.
  • Increasing the funds held in ATMs for easy access to cash.

For eligible customers (consumer and business) – the invitation is out to connect with the Valley representative to discuss interest and principal deferrals; waiver of overdraft charges; waiver of penalties for early CD withdrawals for emergencies; increased loan limits.

Valley is an SBA lender and will implement the federal government’s emergency plans. Bancorp has total of US$37.5 assets.

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Grubhub – We’ll Save Restaurants $100 Million in the Crisis

CEO / Founder Matt Maloney told CNN that the firm is temporally suspending collection of up to US$100 million in commission fees for delivery etc that the firm collects from vendors.

Grubhub services more than 350,000 restaurants of all types, including McDonald’s, Wendy’s and Subway. But of the total, some 80% are locally-owned businesses.

The announcement was made in Chicago with Mayor Lori Lightfoot and local restaurant owners present and participating.

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Information That Board Members Need in the Crisis

The National Association of Corporate Directors (NACD) is the premier board member professional organizations; both individual and full board membership is offered, as well as membership for board advisors. This is an educational- and informational-focused peer organization for the board room.

For the crisis, NACD is offering limited access to “NACD Directors Daily”® -that is usually for members only; this also has links for board members to access key COVID-19 resources.
For information: Matt Barone, Director, Board Development – www.NACDonline.org

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What is Happening in the Distant Work Site? Verité is the Checker

Verité, the supply chain audit company, communicates that its team members are now working from home and that all offices are closed. The program and project work continues with remote connecting.

The work that usually involves group visits to factories, farms or other worksites is now suspended. Verité is collaborating with funders, partners, clients, other stakeholders to determine the way forward such as adjusting the programs to protect its team members.

The organization notes: This, as vulnerabilities of workers worldwide are increasing. The firm will be back in full swing as soon as “trusted authorities” say that it is OK.

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Burlington Retail Stores – Open But Watching Carefully

Burlington Stores, Inc. (NYSE:BURL) is a well-known retailer of off-price high-quality, branded apparel (and toys, gifts, home goods) with 700-plus stores across the United States (in 47 states and Puerto Rico).

The corporate offices are closed in New Jersey so employees could work at home, and stores’ hours are reduced with evaluation going on about the retail, local store operations.

Today, 100 stores have been closed. The Fortune 500® company “is carefully managing expenses, inventory receipts, capex and balance sheet.

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Update For Greater New York City – Business and Government Partnerships in the five boroughs (counties) of the city.

City Council Member Brad Lander (D-Brookyn) shared this news today:

Essential Businesses: Governor Andrew Cuomo has expanded on business closures. Restaurants, bars and cafes may only serve food take-out and delivery. Gyms, theaters and many other establishments have been ordered to close.

Gatherings of over 50 people are prohibited. (Later reduced further.)

Yesterday, Governor Cuomo ordered that all non-essential businesses reduce their workforce by 50%. He said that essential businesses would include health-care providers, grocery and food production, pharmacies, shipping, media, warehousing, utilities, banks and related financial institutions, and other industries critical to the supply chain.

Everyone is encouraged to work from home wherever possible.

Schools: NYC Schools (with one millions students, largest system in the USA) are closed this week as teachers prepare for distance learning. Grab-and-go meals are available for students between 7:30 and 1:30 am at any public school.

Next week, some schools will open as enrichment centers to provide childcare, food and support for children of essential workers and those who cannot stay home.

Some online learning resources are already available here. NYC is buying and giving out laptops for students who do not have access to technology at home (people can fill out the form to request tech).

Spectrum  is making internet access free for those who do not already have it for the next two months.

Spectrum is service of the franchise holder – Charter Communications, Inc. – the NYC service was formerly owned by Time Warner Cable. The company is offering free access to Spectrum Broadband and Wi-Fi for 60 days for new K-12 and college student households beginning March 16. Click here for more info. 

Hospital capacity: The City and State are taking action to find and create more hospital beds and supplies, as we look ahead to overwhelmed hospitals. They are considering turning spaces like the Javits Conference Center and private hotels into emergency hospitals. The shortage of beds and supplies means that we all need to do our part in preventing hospitals from being overwhelmed.

Paid Sick Leave: The New York State legislature passed legislation yesterday to provide emergency paid sick leave up to two weeks for employees who test positive for the virus or are told to quarantine.

While that is a good step, says Council Member Lander, the legislation leaves out hundreds of thousands of workers in NY who are independent contractors, including many mis-classified workers like food delivery workers and for hire drivers. “I am continuing to push for an expansion of paid sick leave to reach many more people, both now and in the long term”, he declared.

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G&A Institute Team Note 
We will continue to bring you news of private (corporate and business), public and social sector developments as organizations in the three societal sectors adjust to the emergency.

The new items will be posted at the top of the blog post and the items today in this first blog post will move down the queue.

We are creating the tag “Corporate Purpose – Virus Crisis” for this continuing series – and the hashtag #WeRise2FightCOVID-19 for our Twitter posts.  Do join the conversation and contribute your views and news. 

Send us news about your organization – info@ga-institute.com so we can share.   Stay safe – be well — keep in touch!