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Axios' Felix Salmon (L) and Fanatics' founder Michael Rubin (R). Photo courtesy of Axios Events

Private sector businesses need to contribute toward social causes they believe in, because "government alone cannot do what needs to be done," Fanatics chief executive Michael Rubin said at an Axios Event on Wednesday.

The state of play: Many private companies have ramped up their charitable efforts during the pandemic. Fanatics, for example, switched gears from producing athletic apparel to manufacturing masks and PPE for essential workers in spring when supplies were falling short. Rubin argues those kinds of relief efforts should be standard in the private sector.

  • "I think that we had a chance to make a small difference, and that also leads other companies to make a small difference. We get inspired by other people as well. So I think that companies need to do their part," he said.

The big picture: Axios' Felix Salmon writes that an Financial Times analysis in June found more than $450 million in corporate pledges made to groups focused on social and racial justice — and that's before the increase in disbursements from the Ford Foundation, the MacArthur Foundation and others.

Watch the full event here.

Go deeper

Updated Dec 16, 2020 - Axios Events

Watch: Supply chain of social good

On Wednesday, December 17 Axios' Felix Salmon hosted a conversation on how businesses are making a difference during the pandemic, featuring Cuyana CEO Karla Gallardo, Edgewell Personal Care CEO Rod Little and Fanatics founder Michael Rubin.

Michael Rubin unpacked how Fanatics pivoted from manufacturing sports apparel to face masks and the social responsibility of the private sector during the pandemic.

  • On the decision to produce masks: "I called the Commissioner of [the Major Baseball League] Rob Manfred and said we should shut down the production of Major League Baseball jerseys and instead make masks...From the second I had the idea to when we were making masks was six days."
  • How the private sector can support the public sector's efforts in the pandemic: "I have a strong belief that as a successful business leader in the private sector, you have a responsibility to make a difference...government alone cannot do what needs to be done."

Karla Gallardo discussed Cuyana's work with their supply chain partners to repurpose materials and to strategically stagger production to keep everyone in business.

  • On their pivoting strategy: "We repurposed materials towards products that we knew would be more in demand. We moved new styles to the later parts of the year or to 2021...We worked with our suppliers together to figure out situations in which both of us could make it through [the pandemic]."

Rod Little unpacked Edgewell Personal Care's focus on employees and highlighted the critical nature of their pandemic leave program, which guaranteed two weeks of paid leave and twelve weeks of 70% paid leave.

  • On the implementation of the paid leave policy: "The most important decision we made early was to institute a new pandemic leave policy...We ended up having 40% of our population in the early days of [the pandemic] either feeling unwell or needing a quarantine because they thought they'd been exposed or needed to sort out childcare. And we paid them for two weeks to go do that."

Axios VP of Client Partnerships Jon Otto hosted a View from the Top segment with General Motors' Global Manufacturing EVP Gerald Johnson who discussed how General Motors began producing ventilators at the outset of the coronavirus pandemic.

  • On acting swiftly at the beginning of the pandemic: "It led us to be able to produce our first ventilator 30 days after [deciding to manufacture them]...Ultimately, the majority of our production ended up filling the country's bank of ventilators to support the effort of the pandemic. "

Thank you General Motors for sponsoring this event.

Miriam Kramer, author of Space
Sep 23, 2020 - Science

Planetary science in the private space age

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The private spaceflight industry isn't just interested in being the manufacturing and infrastructure workhorse in space — some want in on exploration.

Why it matters: Studying planets from close range has long been the realm of governments able to fund and fly missions to distant locations like the Moon, Mars and Venus. Now, private companies are shooting for those destinations and they're prioritizing science at the same time.

Miriam Kramer, author of Space
Jun 2, 2020 - Science

NASA passes the torch

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

With the historic crewed SpaceX launch last weekend, NASA passed the torch to private companies that will need to step up to build the economy the space agency envisions in orbit.

Why it matters: This new era of spaceflight will likely be marked by new conflicts — possibly including product placement (like the Tesla that drove the astronauts to the pad on Saturday), safety concerns and cultural differences between companies, the space agencies and people they serve.