You don’t need to turn on the news to know that the coronavirus pandemic has turned the world upside down. With school and business closures, mandated work-from-home policies, and a stalling economy–potentially hurling us into a global recession–individuals and companies have been forced to make tough decisions in order to adapt to this new normal.
The way companies and their leaders respond during times of crisis can fundamentally define their reputation for the long term. Looking back at the 2008 financial crisis, figures like Dick Fuld (former Chairman and CEO of Lehman Brothers) and global investment firm Goldman Sachs put profits ahead of public welfare and will go down in history as the villains of their time. On the other hand, Apple, then led by the late visionary Steve Jobs, released the first iPhone in 2007 and managed to thrive during the recession due to its consistent innovation and inspirational leadership.
The last few weeks have already revealed some of the heroes and villains of the coronavirus pandemic. Check out the list below to see who is proving to be on the right side of history — and who is not:
VILLAIN: Devin Nunes. The California Republican congressman defied the CDC’s recommendations to stay home by telling people, “if you’re healthy, you and your family, it’s a great time to just go out, go to a local restaurant, likely you can get in, get in easily.” When he received backlash from the public, he doubled down and blamed the “democratic media” for “defaming” and “slandering” him. By spreading bad advice and turning this pandemic into a partisan issue, Nunes exemplifies the worst of what we can expect from our leaders
HERO: Darden Restaurants. Darden Restaurants, which owns chains like Olive Garden and Longhorn Steakhouse, employs 170,000 hourly workers. In response to the coronavirus pandemic, it announced that all hourly employees will receive permanent, paid sick leave benefits. Darden stands out as one of the few companies in the service industry to put its people ahead of profits during this uncertain time.
VILLAIN: Ron DeSantis. The governor of Florida has been widely criticized for his lack of urgency in his response to the coronavirus. With the number of cases in the state rising and the beaches still packed with tourists, DeSantis is still dragging his feet on whether to mandate a shelter-in-place order for the state.
HERO: Mark Cuban. To help local restaurants that are struggling during the pandemic, Mark Cuban announced that he will reimburse any of his employees for the lunch and coffee that they purchase from small businesses in their area.
VILLAIN: Costco. The wholesale corporation is putting its employees on the front lines of the Coronavirus battle as they struggle to control massive crowds in their stores during extended store hours. Employees also fear for their own lives as they acknowledge the lack of protective gear they’ve been provided and their risk of exposure.
HERO: LVMH: The luxury parent company, which owns brands including Givenchy, Marc Jacobs, and Christian Dior, is converting its perfume and cosmetics factories to produce large quantities of hand sanitizer to give away at no charge to French authorities.
VILLAIN: Kelly Loeffler. The Republican Georgia senator–who is married to the chairman of the New York Stock Exchange– sold off seven figures’ worth of stock holdings after a private Senate meeting on the coronavirus in January, right before the market crashed. When confronted about allegations of illegal activity, she denied any wrongdoing and downplayed the public-health and financial threat posed by the coronavirus. Whether or not her actions were illegal, her reputation will certainly take a hit in the long-term.
HERO: Sweetgreen. The popular salad chain has pledged to support “those on the front lines” by providing free salad deliveries to hospital workers and medical personnel from the cities it serves.