When medical supplies started running short in the initial upsurge of the new coronavirus disease (COVID-19), especially the crucial personal protective equipment (PPE), the SM group mapped out a rapid response.
As the country’s largest retailer, SM has a country-wide logistics network and supply chain, and is positioned to obtain the much-needed supplies quickly.
“We started out by chartering two planeloads of medical-grade PPE—full suits, masks, gloves, face shields and shoe covers—from China, and distributing these to hospitals in dire need nationwide,” says Teresita Sy Coson in an email interview with Lifestyle. Coson is vice chair of SM Foundation, the conglomerate’s corporate social responsibility arm.
“We prioritized COVID-19-assigned hospitals such as the Philippine General Hospital, the Lung Center of the Philippines, and a range of government and private hospitals throughout the country.
“We are also in full support of wider testing, particularly through the local test kits developed by the University of the Philippines-National Institutes of Health team. We are donating test kits to hospitals, equivalent to 20,000 tests.”
Baguio General Hospital, where testing personnel are trained, was the initial recipient of test kits. There are plans to donate test kits to four other government-assigned testing centers.
More shipments of medical supplies are en route by sea cargo.
“We have received many requests for help through the foundation, and through our malls, and we have tried our best to allocate them to all,” she added. “To date we have distributed over 18,000 gallons of alcohol, over 15,000 face shields, over 85,000 N95 masks and 330,000 surgical masks, 129,000 pairs of medical gloves, 6,000 goggles, over 55,000 PPEs, over 120,000 raincoats and 11 ICU ventilators, among others.”
The SM group’s footprint in China, where most of these supplies are made, made for an efficient procurement system.
“We have a strong and dedicated team within SM that made it possible, from our buying office in China, our procurement group, our warehouse distribution group and the SM Foundation,” says Coson. “We were also assisted by our logistics partner Airspeed, that chartered the planes for us. It’s been challenging, but at SM Foundation, we always do our best to respond and mobilize effectively and quickly.”
The national emergency created by the COVID-19 pandemic has revealed a hitherto-unseen face of corporate social responsibility: crisis response.
Many of the leading private companies have pitched in where they can, helping build quarantine facilities, providing food and temporary accommodations for front-line health workers, channeling donations and raising funds for hospitals.
“Simply put, it’s people helping people,” says Coson. “We all have a role to play in the fight against COVID-19. Within SM, we ensured that our employees received their full salaries during the lockdown, and extended financial aid to our security guards and janitorial staff. We have extended help to health-care workers and those at risk from COVID-19, through test kits, PPEs and ICU ventilators for severe cases.
“We will take things as they come, and help where we are needed. We join the rest of the country in the continuous fight against COVID-19.”