Welcome again to Stepping Up, our weekly report that tracks the ways brands can make a difference to issues arising from COVID-19. As the spread of the disease evolves, so too do the problems for us to act upon.


The vital issues we’ve identified in the past continue to demand attention and resources, namely:

  • Ensuring the health and safety of frontline and essential workers by providing access to still-scarce personal protective equipment (PPE).
  • The toll of isolation on mental health, particularly among vulnerable populations such as seniors.
  • The impact of being quarantined on vulnerable populations, including adults and children who live in unstable and abusive environments.
  • Food supply chain disruptions as processing plants close due to worker illness; producers stuck with vast quantities of food they cannot sell.


Local Landmarks at Risk

Last week the famous Vancouver Aquarium announced it risks closing permanently in two months without immediate financial support. And a recent survey by the Canadian Federation of Independent Business found that only half of small business are confident their business will survive to the end of May under the current conditions. These local businesses do more than stimulate the economy – they act as local landmarks and offer an important sense of local pride and identity.

What can you do to help save or profile a vital local landmark?

Impact on Education and the Potential for Academic Regression

As more schools move to e-learning, the struggle to keep kids from falling behind academically continues to be a top story. The key issues include unequal access to and unfamiliarity with the necessary technology, along with social and intra-family/ household challenges. Teachers are also facing challenges trying to ensure their students have the tools and resources they need to be successful.

What can you do to help students from falling behind academically over the next few months?

How can you help teachers overcome the obstacles they are facing in getting students to engage academically?

The Economic Impact is Dominating the News Cycle

COVID-19’s impact to the economy emerged as a key theme last week as industries like retail reported historically low sales, downbeat earnings, and additional layoffs, pay cuts, and furloughs. Layoffs initially hit service jobs the hardest; now, as a deep economic downturn takes hold, job losses have started to hit white-collar office jobs. We are also seeing stories speculating about when the economy may recover, with some data suggesting that the downturn may last longer than many initially expected.

What can you do to help people and businesses weather a protracted economic downturn?

What can you do to project confidence in a recovery and the steps required to gradually and safely reopen your offices and manufacturing plants?

Protecting Seniors

We have seen a disturbing increase in stories over the past week about the spikes in deaths among seniors living in nursing homes or in long-term care facilities throughout Canada and the U.S. as COVID-19 ravages these facilities and vulnerable populations are exposed to poor levels of care.

What can you do to help protect seniors and to help ensure this highly-vulnerable and dependent population receives the sort of care, respect, and dignity they deserve?

Personnel Partnerships go Mainstream

In March, Sobeys and Walmart Canada looked to meet a coronavirus-fueled surge in demand by filling their employee pipelines with Cineplex and Fairmont employees. Last week CVS Health in the U.S. announced that to recruit the 50,000 staff it needs, it is partnering with Gap Inc., Hilton Worldwide Holdings Inc., Delta Air Lines Inc. and dozens of other companies to employ their laid-off workers.

Does a personnel partnership make sense for your business, either on the hiring end or to help furloughed employees find work?

A Focus on Farmers

As most of us hunker down at home, farmers are in fields, orchards and packing plants to keep food on our tables. But advocates are warning that as the virus spreads, many farmworkers are living and working in conditions that put their health particularly at risk. And if outbreaks hit farm communities hard, they say, that could put our food supply at risk, too.

What can you do to help or advocate for farmers and farm workers at a time when their services are so vital, but they are also vulnerable?


We are seeing increased U.S. media coverage on the inequalities regarding COVID-19 infection rates and death among black and Hispanic populations, while Ontario black leaders recently advocated for a pandemic response strategy that accounts for racial bias. There are explorations into why these inequalities exist, with factors such as poverty, chronic health conditions, air pollution and other existing social, health and environmental problems seen as risk factors.

What can you do to help address the economic and societal inequalities that are leading to increased risks of COVID-19?

How can you help build awareness around the role that economic and social inequalities are playing in COVID-19 infection rates and death?

A Whisper of Tech Fatigue

There has been an explosion of tech and screen-based distractions that have emerged since stay-at-home orders were put into place. But we are also seeing a surge in the purchase of more traditional entertainment options such as puzzles and board games, suggesting some tech fatigue and a desire for different experiences.

What non-tech entertainment or leisure options can you offer to individuals and families looking for new ways to keep themselves busy during quarantine?

The Mental Health Impact on Responders

The hard truth is that when the rest of the country moves on and rebuilds, a new threat of post-traumatic stress disorder faces responders and their families that could rage for years.

What can you do to help people who are experiencing traumatic events during this time get the help and support they need?

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