Industry Actions to Overcome COVID-19
Many Korean businesses are working in concert to help prevent COVID-19 from spreading. While working to protect its employees, customers, and partners, they are actively cooperating with various parties and organizations to stop the virus from spreading and restoring damage to our communities. In this regard, Asia Society Korea interviewed the executives at LOTTE Group, South Korea’s fifth-largest conglomerate, regarding their proactive protective measures to overcome COVID-19.
LOTTE Group is featuring the four key business domains of food & beverage, retail, chemicals, and hotels in over 36 countries. They are currently employing various measures to not only protect its employees and customers, but to help curtail the spread of COVID-19. In addition to strictly complying with Korea Centers for Disease Control & Prevention’s (KCDC) guidelines, LOTTE Group and its affiliates have proactively implemented independent and stronger preventive measures in all of its business locations since the beginning of the pandemic. These collective measures have allowed LOTTE employees to work in a safe environment while also providing customers with a sense of relief when visiting LOTTE facilities. LOTTE is also spearheading efforts to support partners and community members affected by the virus.
Operating a group control tower to coordinate against COVID-19
After the first confirmed case in Korea last January, LOTTE Group immediately began monitoring the situation by securing adequate amounts of sanitization equipment, distributing preventive guidelines, and directing employees who had travelled to affected areas to work from home. The group also utilized its sourcing capacities to provide free protective masks for its employees in order to prevent the virus from spreading internally. As confirmed cases began to rise sharply in February, LOTTE Group deployed a task force (C-TFT) and opened synchronous communication channels with its fifty plus affiliates and twenty thousand business locations. Through this visibility, they were able to react in a timely manner and apply appropriate measures to mitigate further risks.
Thorough disinfection and preventative measures in business locations
LOTTE currently operates several multifunction facilities such as department stores, shopping malls, amusement parks, and hotels. To ensure customer’s safety in these facilities, LOTTE has installed thermal cameras, sanitization products, and preventive guideline posters at all entry and exit points. Main facilities are fully sterilized once a day while frequently contacted objects such as shopping carts and escalator handles are sterilized repeatedly.
If a confirmed patient is found to have visited a LOTTE facility, the management immediately informs the KCDC to ask for their cooperation to trace the patient’s exact travel route within the facility and such facts are transparently released to the public as per the KCDC’s recommendation. In addition, the facility is thoroughly sterilized, and employees who came in contact with the confirmed patient are immediately tested and placed in self-quarantine for two weeks.
Work guidelines for employees to curtail the spread of COVID-19
LOTTE provided all of its employees with a ‘COVID-19 Working Guideline’ on February 25th. The guideline’s objective is to ensure the health and wellness of employees and their family members while also preventing the mass closure of workplaces.
"Working from home" is implemented by taking into account the nature of the business. For some businesses, all employees can work from home while other businesses divide employees into two or three groups and rotate personnel working from home. Employees who are pregnant or have a prior medical history however are required to work from home. These actions not only help prevent the spread of the virus within the company, but also train and familiarize employees with different work environments in case such measures are necessitated by the virus.
To minimize interpersonal contact for on-site employees, LOTTE affiliates are currently implementing flexible working hours so that employees can avoid using public transportation during rush hours. Workshops and gatherings have been banned, while all meetings are recommended to be carried out through video conferencing.
Employees who come to work are checked every day for fevers or symptoms. During working hours, employees are required to wear protective masks and disinfect their hands with hand sanitizer from time to time to prevent the spread of the virus. In line with social distancing efforts, LOTTE has also limited the use of the staff cafeteria during the lunch hours.
Employees using the cafeteria are required to all sit facing one direction or in a zigzag to limit contact while eating. Lunch boxes for employees are also being prepared so that employees may eat separately at their own seats.
Due to these proactive measures within the workplace, only 3 out of LOTTE’s 230,000 employees had contracted the virus as of March 25.
Supporting partners and the community
LOTTE is also carrying out various efforts to support its partners and community members affected by COVID-19. To help prevent the spread of the virus and support those already affected, LOTTE has donated approximately one million USD as of February of this year.
In particular, these contributions have prioritized helping children who were not receiving adequate welfare care due to COVID-19. With many welfare facilities being closed down to prevent the spread of COVID-19, LOTTE has provided food supplies to affected children so that they will have enough food this month. LOTTE has also supported lower-income households, senior citizens, and healthcare workers with sanitization products, daily necessities, and food.
LOTTE group also utilized the world’s fifth tallest building, LOTTE World Tower, to send supportive messages to those affected by the pandemic. In the initial stages of the outbreak, supportive messages for Wuhan citizens were shown and they were followed by messages such as ‘Cheer up Daegu Kyungbook’, ‘Let’s get through this, Korea’, and ‘Thank you Medical Staff’.
LOTTE Asset Development, an affiliate operating shopping malls, has delayed rent payments for small and medium-sized enterprises affected by the virus. LOTTE Homeshopping and LOTTE Himart are providing free sanitization services for partner facilities. LOTTE Duty Free has donated daily necessities while 7-11 is providing a portion of its revenues to healthcare workers to procure medical equipment.