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Brief Published: 24 Mar 2020

US Corporations Sign on to StopTheSpread


At Stylus, we’ve discussed with increasing urgency the need for brands to find substantive purpose and fuel positive change. Now, an initiative called StopTheSpread is urging corporate giants to rally together to fight Covid-19.

Over 1,500 chief executives in the US have signed on to the initiative, which was launched on March 14 by Ken Chenault, former American Express chief and now chairman at venture capital (VC) firm General Analyst, along with Rachel Carlson, head of Guild Education, a US education-technology platform.

“We are living through an unprecedented American moment,” they wrote in a New York Times column, and how business leaders respond “will play a large part in determining whether we can defeat the coronavirus without paying a huge price in lives and national wealth.”

Chenault and Carlson acknowledge that many businesses are already helping, but insist that collective corporate action is needed now, without waiting for government directives. “We need to see the same sense of duty within private industry that rallied our nation at other critical junctures in our nation’s history.”

To start, they are focussed on healthcare products and medical devices, creating partnerships with manufacturers and helping to distribute critical goods. The organisation is also coordinating private-sector funds to support American healthcare systems. 

Propping up small businesses is another goal, called #PayItForward. They’re asking large companies with flexible balance sheets to pay any sums due their small business vendors immediately, rather than wait the customary 30-45 days. StopTheSpread is also starting training programmes for front-line workers.

In Americans’ eyes, the ideal path forward is a combined public/private effort: 41% say they trust a business/government team to effectively lead efforts to combat the virus, versus just 8% for business alone and 13% for government alone (Edelman, March 6-10).

Beyond the coronavirus crisis, consumers will increasingly look to corporations to collaboratively tackle urgent environmental issues and act decisively. Businesses will need to align with the outlook adopted last year by the lobbying organisation Business Roundtable, which stated that corporations must now look beyond the chief goal of boosting shareholder value.