Saskia van Gendt had about one “normal” week in the office after starting as head of sustainability at Rothy’s. Then COVID-19 hit the United States. Now she’s not only adapting her current role for the times, but also leading Rothy’s Open Innovation Coalition. In this week’s Retail Gets Real episode, van Gendt, head of sustainability at Rothy’s, joins hosts Bill Thorne and Sarah Rand to talk about the Open Innovation Coalition, which brings together a community of brands to share resources on how best to support COVID-19 relief efforts.
Rothy’s Open Innovation Coalition was developed in response to needs from the developing coronavirus and has illustrated the ability of brands to act quickly, evaluate resources and come up with solutions. Although the current concerns are health and safety, the coalition’s quick formation illustrates how retailers can collaborate in the future to serve the public in a variety of ways.
At the onset of the pandemic, Rothy’s leaders quickly came together to brainstorm how to meet immediate needs, connecting with other brand leaders and requesting feedback on which networks to leverage in order to act. “The more diversity in the type of industries and organizations that are involved, the more that we can do,” Gendt says. A wide spectrum of organizations and brands reached out to help, all with a different skillset and perspective on how to solve challenges brought on by the coronavirus.
Rothy’s soon became the “matchmaker,” connecting needs with resources from the retailers and experts in tune with the products and services that could create the most impact. Brands open-sourced patterns, donated excess material and shared templates to adapt for production of PPE. With a collective goal of helping 1 million individuals, the coalition plans to continue sourcing ideas on how to help, with the belief that the collaborations will grow to meet more need in the future.
“I think there may be a shift coming out of COVID that changes how we work with other brands and partners,” Gendt says. “It’s kind of cool to think that we could be on the forefront of exploring that and working with new brands in new ways. I feel a lot of optimism.”
Listen to the full episode to learn more about how the coalition works together and lessons learned along the way.