Brand Moves for Wednesday July 22

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Twenty-one weeks ago, when the gravity of the situation became clear, we started daily reporting on how brands were dealing with the COVID-19 crisis. What’s now becoming clear is that the current climate is one of near-perpetual disruption. So we made the decision to keep on telling the stories of inspiring brand leadership and strategy amid the latest crises in an anxious world. Our goal remains the same: to provide an up-to-the-minute source of information, inspiration and insight on brand moves as they happen.

A consortium of major retailers is hoping to incentivize the invention of a better alternative to plastic bags. The founding partners – CVS, Target and Walmart – have collectively committed $15 million to the project. Kroger and Walgreens have also signed on, and the group’s hoping to garner the support of more major retailers. The goal of the “Beyond the Bag” initiative is to identify, test and implement “viable design solutions and models that more sustainably serve the purpose of the current retail bag,” according to Closed Loop Partners, a sustainability-focused investment firm that’s leading the three-year project.

From Aug. 3 through Sept. 10, the initiative will be accepting submissions from inventors, innovators and supply chain and packaging experts for alternatives to single-use plastic bags. After the group selects its winners, up to six submissions will move on to the “accelerator” beginning in January, where innovators will be able to build out their solutions with guidance and funding from the consortium, with the help of global design firm IDEO. Submissions that are immediately ready for piloting may receive additional funding or in-kind support from the consortium as well. “Even in those places where customers are really committed to use reusable bags, you always will have a percent of customers that do unplanned shopping trips,” said Walmart’s sustainability director, Anna Vinogradova. Those customers still need a way to transport their purchases home, and the consortium hopes to come up with better, more sustainable choices for shoppers. Through the innovation challenge, Vinogradova said she hopes the consortium will uncover ideas that “we cannot even imagine” right now and that will consider what retail will look like in five or 10 years. For example, the solutions should accommodate what looks like a long-term shift toward self-checkout and grocery delivery, she said.

The National Basketball Association has a few reasons to cheer. First, none of the 346 players tested for Covid-19 last week at its Florida campus – the so-called bubble – received positive results. That’s an improvement over the previous week’s already promising 0.6% positive rate. With less than a fortnight before Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James and company tip off for the first time since March, the result is a relief. But the bubble itself is also a hit. In under two weeks, the Twitter account @NBABubbleLife, which posts video clips and screenshots from athletes’ social media accounts, racked up more than 100,000 followers. Fans can watch superstars play practical jokes on their teammates, shotgun brewskis and make fishing entertaining. This trend of relatively unmediated access started before players landed in Florida, but it’s a safe bet it’ll continue transforming sports media long after the quarantine ends.

Europe’s largest holiday operator is offering free COVID-19 travel insurance to persuade people to go on package holidays this summer. Germany-based TUI said it was rolling out the policies across Europe this week after striking a deal with insurer AXA to pay for any coronavirus-linked medical plus repatriation cost. Even if it takes a loss on the insurance, the $2.6 billion company hopes it will reassure anxious customers and steal market share from rivals. It’s a smart strategy: a recent survey by the International Air Transport Association suggested that fewer than half of those surveyed planned to hop on a flight any time soon, hurting Mediterranean destinations like Magaluf and Mykonos, which typically make up half of the German group’s sales. Given a heavy 4.3 billion euro debt burden, equivalent to more than 4 times 2021 forecast EBITDA according to Refinitiv data, TUI needs sun-seekers to rediscover their wanderlust soon.

COVID-19 is accelerating trends, and here’s another to add to the list: the growth of turnover-related rents. The landlord that owns trendy shopping hub Covent Garden in central London,Capital & Counties (or Capco), is offering turnover-based leases to some tenants until the end of year. The idea of linking rent to revenue is a big change from lengthy leases that increase in line with inflation; the emergence of online shopping has forced some to accept lower rents. Capco only collected 27% of the rent it was owed in the third quarter. Linking rent to turnover leaves landlords with a more volatile income. It also incentivises tenants to sell more goods online, as internet sales are typically exempt from the turnover definitions used to determine rent. While punters eschew shops and restaurants, a shaky income stream may be the best landlords can hope for.

Self-driving car company Waymo and Fiat Chrysler are expanding their autonomous vehicle partnership to commercial vehicles, and Fiat Chrysler will develop fully self-driving vehicles exclusively with Waymo going forward, the companies said. Waymo, part of Google parent Alphabet and Fiat Chrysler said they will work together to develop autonomous light commercial vehicles for moving goods, starting by integrating Waymo’s self-driving technology into Ram ProMaster vans, which Fiat Chrysler sells globally. Waymo’s Waymo Via autonomous goods delivery unit will use vehicles co-developed with Fiat Chrysler, the companies said. Self-driving vehicle companies and automakers have been shifting investment and engineering to delivery and other commercial uses of autonomous vehicles, betting that moving goods will offer a faster route to profits than overcoming the technical, social and regulatory obstacles to moving people. The expanded partnership with Fiat Chrysler will cover “ride-hailing, commercial delivery, and personal-use vehicles around the world,” Waymo Chief Executive John Krafcik said.

Apple has promised to remove carbon emissions from its entire business, including its products and sprawling supply chain, over the next decade. The iPhone maker said its global corporate operations such as offices and data centers are already carbon neutral but that it will extend its effort to the thousands of suppliers that contribute to its products. Apple said it aims to achieve 75% of the goal by reducing emissions, with the remaining 25% coming from carbon removal or offset projects such as planting trees and restoring habitats. For its supply chain, Apple aims to address what are termed “scope three” emissions, which come indirectly from a company’s value chain. In Apple’s case, this means contract manufacturers such as Hon Hai Precision Industry’sFoxconn. Apple said 74% of its overall carbon emissions are generated by product manufacturing. To address the scope three emissions from manufacturing, Apple said it will help set up a $100 million “U.S.-China Green Fund” to provide capital investments to suppliers for energy efficiency projects.

A mobile app offering rewards for pursuing an eco-friendly lifestyle, susGain, has launched in Singapore. When spending at a sustainable local business, users can earn points as well as a percentage back on their purchase. At the same time, each user’s favorite cause or charity will receive a donation of equal value. The susGain in-app map also displays water refill stations, clothing swaps, recycling bins, and more near a user’s location; consumers can scan a QR code at each of these areas to receive points, which makes them eligible for additional rewards. The susGain team’s ultimate goal is to spur the creation of more sustainable businesses and practices throughout Singapore. This is aimed at what Harvard Business Review calls the “elusive” green consumer; it found that although 65% of young shoppers say they wish to buy from sustainability-driven brands, only 26% actually do so.

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