The rapid spread of the coronavirus triggered an urgent need to shield frontline medical staff with protective equipment, something many national health systems lacked. Fashion houses have rapidly switched from producing clothes to hospital gowns, but the rush for protective masks and glasses has drawn in companies from several different sectors.
Premium eyewear brand Silhouette International, headquartered in Austria, has donated 20,000 pairs of its close-fitting sports sunglasses equipped with clear lenses to the Austrian Red Cross. The glasses are being used at Covid-19 drive-through test centres across the country. The Lego Group, not normally associated with protective gear, is using six moulding machines at a plant in Denmark to make visors instead of plastic bricks. Around 13,000 units can be manufactured daily, and an initial order for 50,000 has already been received.
Mondelez International has been similarly creative in repurposing 3D printers that usually create chocolate sculptures at its UK Cadbury plant. The machines now print components for medical visors. Working with engineering firm 3P innovation, Mondelez will help make up to 10,000 visors a week.
Hugo Boss, the premium fashionwear company, has converted its German production facilities to manufacture face masks for public-health bodies, even turning conference rooms into workshops with sewing machines. Coty, its license partner on fragrances, is also helping to combat the coronavirus by making hand sanitiser.
Several drinks companies are supporting the bar and restaurant sector devastated by the pandemic. The Heineken Company is doing likewise, but has gone further with multiple initiatives that include donating €15 million to the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies and providing water, soft drinks, hand sanitisers and financial contributions to medical facilities in the markets where it operates.