Patagonia and Nasdaq CEOs on how to ‘reopen’

Patagonia and Nasdaq chief executives weigh in on the question of the moment.

Patagonia and Nasdaq CEOs on how to ‘reopen’

Good morning, Broadsheet readers! Runner Mary Cain has a new sponsorship—and job, the women who run Scotland and Northern Ireland object to Boris Johnson’s plan to emerge from lockdown, and two CEOs weigh in on reopening. Have a wonderful Wednesday. 

– ‘Reopening’ x 2. Two CEOs, from two very different industries, weighed in yesterday on what ‘reopening’ from coronavirus lockdowns will mean for their companies.

In an interview with Bloomberg, Nasdaq CEO Adena Friedman says her staff’s return to the physical workplace will be voluntary for the foreseeable future. She made that determination after an employee survey found that the vast majority of workers want to keep working from home as they evaluate the wider world’s virus recovery.

When workers do return to the office, they may be subject to temperature tests, sit in spaced-out desk arrangements, and have to wear masks.

She acknowledged that her industry is privileged to be able to work remotely. “We have the luxury of patience,” she said. “[W]e have the ability to work from home very effectively.”

Generally speaking, Patagonia CEO Rose Marcario doesn’t have that luxury with a workforce scattered across retail stores and warehouses. The outdoor apparel and equipment company has been hit hard by coronavirus shutdowns, with North American sales plunging 50% since it temporarily closed its 39 stores and e-commerce business there on March 13; it was one of the first major retailers to do so.

Patagonia resumed online orders on April 9 once it had revamped its Reno, Nev., distribution center. Workers wear gloves and face coverings, they stand 30 feet apart, the cafe is closed, shared refrigerators are off-limits, and overall staffing is at 50%.

Even with the pressure of slumping sales and few remote working options, Patagonia is not hurrying to reopen physical stores like retail peers Macy’s and Gap Inc. In fact, the company is not expecting to open retail locations for in-store shopping until June at the earliest. It may not even happen until the fall or early winter.

Patagonia has established itself as a progressive force in Corporate America in recent years, particularly in regards to climate change. It’s also certified as a B corp, meaning it’s required to consider the interests of “workers, the community, and the environment” in addition to shareholders. 

That first stakeholder—employees—is top-of-mind for Marcario who says the company may eschew state decrees to reopen.

“We were one of the first to shut down, we might be closer to the last to reopen fully—I don’t really care,” Marcario said. “We are doing everything we can to ensure that our employees are taken care of in the best way possible and we’ll make those decisions as we come to them.”

Claire Zillman

Today’s Broadsheet was produced by Emma Hinchliffe. 

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Europe’s plan to save the sacred summer vacation depends on contact-tracing apps—but there’s a problem

But only if they are interoperable–and at the moment, that's no certainty.

Europe’s plan to save the sacred summer vacation depends on contact-tracing apps—but there’s a problem

Countries in the European Union are being urged to make their COVID-19 contact-tracing apps interoperable—for the sake of Europe’s $2 trillion tourism industry.

Very little non-essential travel between EU countries is allowed at the moment, as governments rapidly closed borders in March to stem the spread of the coronavirus outbreak.

This has contributed to devastation in the tourism sector, with countries such as Spain and Greece experiencing major hits to their economies. In the latest blow caused by the crisis, German travel giant TUI announced a whopping 8,000 job cuts on Wednesday.

Now, the European Commission is trying to get those borders made invisible again, as they effectively were before the pandemic struck. The EU executive branch does not have the power to force member states to do this—some, such as Germany and Austria, are moving independently to reopen their borders in mid-June—but on Wednesday it unveiled a package of recommendations in an attempt to pave the way for the wide return of free movement.

One key recommendation is that the contact-tracing apps deployed by various EU countries should be able to talk to one another, “so citizens can report a positive test or receive an alert, wherever they are in the EU and whatever app they are using,” the Commission said.

Using wireless Bluetooth technology, contact-tracing apps establish when users are close to one another and create a record of that event. If a user subsequently tests positive for COVID-19, they can give this information to the app so that other people, who came in close vicinity of that person, can be warned that they may need testing or quarantine.

If people are able to cross borders again, it’s not hard to see how a lack of interoperability would stymie the apps’ objective. However, each country is preparing its own contact-tracing app—and some have different ideas about how the technology should work.

The biggest momentum is behind the decentralized approach supported by Apple and Google, in which individuals’ health information is fully shielded from the governments and companies that allow apps to talk to one another. This is the approach that countries such as Germany and Italy are choosing.

But other countries, such as the U.K. and France, are currently on track to adopt a more centralized approach that would allow more integration with manual contact-tracing efforts, but that has riskier privacy implications—and that, without the support of the companies that make smartphone operating systems, could also prove buggy. “We are not against Apple and Google but we don’t want to be forced into a certain technology approach,” French digital affairs minister Cédric O told the . “States should be able to make their own choices on such a critical matter—it’s a question of sovereignty.”

European countries do have sovereignty when it comes to their borders and health systems, but a lack of coordination won’t help getting travel and tourism back on track, the Commission is arguing.

“Interoperability is crucial, so that wide, voluntary take-up of national tracing apps can support the relaxing of confinement measures and the lifting of restrictions of freedom of movement throughout the EU,” it said Wednesday.

Not all EU countries are keen on the idea of contact-tracing app use being a prerequisite for border crossings—but they may have little choice. “Let’s be honest, if Germany or France were to impose a tracing app for any Luxembourger to cross their border, how could we oppose it?” asked Luxembourg parliamentarian Sven Clement, according to Politico.

App coordination wasn’t the only measure recommended Wednesday. To support travel firms that are in big trouble right now, the Commission wants to make vouchers rather than cash refunds a more attractive option for travelers whose trips have been cancelled—it said vouchers should be protected against the travel firms’ insolvency, and made automatically refundable if they aren’t claimed within a year.

The Commission set out a framework for the safe reintroduction of tourism, including factors such as health-system and testing capacity, and is also setting up a website featuring a digital map that will give tourists real-time information about border situations and travel restrictions.

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