Washington – Business Roundtable today launched BRT TV, a new series featuring interviews with America’s leading CEOs offering perspectives on the top issues facing the country. The inaugural season of BRT TV will examine the many challenges and opportunities facing the country and the role of business in responding. Available beginning today, “Season One, Episode One: COVID-19” features a behind-the-scenes look at the private sector’s COVID-19 response from the perspectives of four of America’s leading CEOs whose businesses are on the front lines of responding to the crisis.
Season One, Episode One: COVID-19 is available at brt.org/tv and includes extended interviews with Doug McMillon, President and Chief Executive Officer, Walmart and Chairman, Business Roundtable; Alex Gorsky, Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer, Johnson & Johnson; Rosalind Brewer, Chief Executive Officer, Walgreens Boots Alliance, Inc.; and Darius Adamczyk, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Honeywell.
On Facing the Pandemic
“Early on in the pandemic, a number of companies, including Walmart, got a call from the administration asking if we could help with COVID testing by making our parking lots available. That quickly turned into a series of problem-solving challenges,” said McMillon. “Where are we going to get the PPE to administer these tests safely? Where are we going to get the tests themselves? How do you set that up in a parking lot? Who staffs it? What's the role of the state government, the local government? So saying yes to the parking lot turned into hundreds of different decisions that needed to be made, and our team stepped up.”
On Adapting and Innovating
“The first sign was, ‘How do we respond to this PP&E crisis?’ And we're one of the few N95 mask manufacturers, and our capacity in the U.S. was actually quite small. And very quickly in early April we made a decision that we're going to very quickly expand our capacity and help the country out in a time of need,” said Adamczyk. “And, I was getting multiple calls from governors, from medical CEOs and so ons about getting them more masks. And frankly, I felt horrible. There was not much we could do and we were allocating the few masks that we had. But it was a- it was a remarkable achievement because in a matter of a few weeks, not even months, we actually started up two new facilities and were producing thousands upon thousands of masks.”
“To think that only 15 months ago, a genetic code and sequencing information came across a computer screen, and literally within a matter of weeks, scientists around the world in different companies were quickly marshaling the resources, their expertise, to apply it to platforms that had never been used, let alone in a pandemic or anywhere near the scale that we were talking about, is remarkable,” said Gorsky. “I've never seen the kind of collaboration, the partnerships where companies were sharing information, because it wasn't a race against the other company. This was a race against the virus. I firmly believe this will be one of the proudest moments for our industry of how we collectively responded to this once in a generation pandemic.”
On Leading Forward
“I think we've learned a lot, but it does say to all of us as business leaders, how can we look at matters that are affecting our communities, like affordable health care? What's our role in that?” said Brewer. “I think it also speaks to how do we step up … as companies … being much more part of people's lives than we ever imagined, especially those of us who are in retail units. And I think we have not fully explored that, but this pandemic has showed us that there's more that we can do to build trust with people who need us the most.”
“We've got to keep working together. Vaccinating people is really important in this country and around the world, and as the U.S. has supply available, we need to be making that available,” concluded McMillon.