After nearly a full year of panic, I feel like I can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel. With more vaccines available, and Massachusetts expanding its eligible pool of those waiting to be vaccinated, I am getting closer to breathing a sigh of relief. This week alone, both my parents and my mother-in-law received their first dose of the Covid vaccine, and my grandmother received her second. As the supply continues to grow, and appointments eventually become available to the general public, a sense of normalcy will start to return. I can also see the light at the end of the tunnel as February is over, and spring is just around the corner. For the first time in weeks I went for a run where I did not have to run on icy sidewalks or paths. With some warmer weather on the horizon, I truly can see the light. And now on to this week’s news.
- President Biden in the news:
- Walmart drops $35 minimum purchase for 2-hour delivery
- FedEx committing to reach carbon-neutral operations by 2040
- Descarets acquires QuestaWeb
- Kroger funds ideas from startups to reduce food waste
- Costco, Whole Foods rise in Greenpeace rankings of grocery chains’ plastic use
- Autonomous drone maker Skydio raises $170 million
With Johnson & Johnson’s Covid vaccine getting approval for emergency use by the FDA, President Biden is confident that the country has vaccine plans under control. Earlier this week, Biden said that the US would have enough Covid-19 vaccine doses for every adult American by the end of May. This speeds up the timeline by a full two months of having enough shots by the end of July. Part of the reason for the new timeframe is the partnership announced by Merck and Johnson & Johnson to manufacture the vaccine. Biden hailed the partnership as a way to quickly jumpstart the sluggish vaccine production, likening it to cooperation between corporations during World War II. The president is also directing states to prioritize teachers in their vaccination plans in an effort to reopen schools.
Over the course of the next week, nearly 6,000 workers at an Amazon warehouse in Bessemer, Alabama are voting on whether they want to be represented by the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union. Those workers that are in favor of unionizing got a boost from a video posted to Twitter by President Biden. In his remarks, Biden defended workers’ rights to form unions and warned against intimidation of workers. He said every worker should have a free and fair choice to join a union, and no employer could take that away. “It’s your right…So make your voice heard.” If successful, the Bessemer warehouse would be the first of the 400,000 American Amazon workers to unionize, potentially paving the way for more union votes.
A bipartisan group of eight governors from US auto states has urged President Biden to do more to press semiconductor firms to address a global shortage of automotive chips that has cut some vehicle production. Lawmakers have also urged the White House to pressure chip manufacturers to boost the auto chip supply. Biden has said he would seek $37 billion in funding for legislation to supercharge US chip manufacturing and signed an executive order aimed at addressing the global semiconductor chip shortage. Automakers hit by the shortage include General Motors, Ford, Volkswagen AG, Toyota, Nissan, Stellantis, and Subaru. The governors urging the change are from Michigan, Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky, Kansas, South Carolina, Alabama, and Missouri.
During the early stages of the Covid pandemic, Walmart rolled out a two-hour delivery service for customers that were looking to avoid stepping foot inside a store. The service, dubbed Walmart Express, required a $35 minimum order value to qualify. However, many customers found that the items they needed in a hurry did not meet the minimum order value. As the service has expanded to almost 3,000 stores, and uses a team of 170,000 personal shoppers to pick customers’ orders, Walmart is making changes to the service. The company has dropped the $35 minimum purchase requirement for the two-hour Express delivery service. Instead, the service now requires $10 on top of existing delivery charges. However, for those customers that are enrolled in the company’s Walmart+ subscription club, the additional delivery fee is dropped.
Earlier this week, FedEx announced that it is committing to reach carbon-neutral operations by 2040, aided in part by replacing its entire pickup and delivery fleet with zero-emission electric vehicles. The company said that it would put in an initial investment of more than $2 billion to help achieve the goal. And where would that $2 billion go? It would go toward vehicle electrification, sustainable energy, and carbon sequestration, which is the process of capturing and storing atmospheric carbon dioxide. The $2 billion investment also includes $100 million to help Yale University establish the Yale Center for Natural Carbon Capture, which will be “accelerating research into methods of carbon sequestration at scale, with an initial focus on helping to offset greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to current airline emissions.”
Descartes Systems Group, a global leader in uniting logistics-intensive businesses in commerce, announced that it has acquired QuestaWeb, a leading provider of foreign trade zone (FTZ) and customs compliance solutions. Headquartered in Clarke, NJ, QuestaWeb provides cloud-based customs and regulatory compliance solutions. QuestaWeb’s FTZ solution allows logistics services providers and importers to automate processes and comply with US Customs and Border Protection regulatory requirements for operating a foreign trade zone in the US. Descartes acquired QuestaWeb for approximately $36 million, satisfied from cash on hand.
Food waste continues to be a big problem around the world, and more and more companies are looking at ways to reduce the waste. In the US alone, 35 percent of produce is thrown away, while 50 million people struggle with food security. The Kroger Co. Zero Hunger | Zero Waste Foundation is doubling down on its commitment to end hunger and food waste by launching an open call to its second innovation fund. Eligible innovators with ideas and solutions to prevent food waste can submit an application by April 1 for business support and funding totaling $2.5 million in collective grants. After the open call, the foundation will select 10 startups. Each startup selected for the fund’s second cohort will receive $100,000 in upfront seed-grant funding, totaling an initial $1 million investment.
There has also been a move lately for large companies to reduce single-use plastic packaging. This has resulted in new ways of delivering prepared foods to both stores and consumers. In Greenpeace’s best-to-worst ranking of 20 large grocery chains’ progress in eliminating single-use plastics, Costco made a large leap to the number 6 spot. The environmental group lauded Costco for transitioning food court packaging to compostable alternatives and pledging to reduce its use of Styrofoam. Pittsburgh-based Giant Eagle was crowned the best performer on plastics use for its commitment to eliminate all single-use plastics by 2025. Aldi, Sprouts Farmers Market, Kroger, and Albertsons were the next-best chains.
Autonomous drone maker Skydio has raised $170 million in a Series D funding round led by Andreessen Horowitz’s Growth Fund. The latest round of funding pushes its total funding to $340 million, with a post-money valuation north of $1 billion. Skydio’s fresh capital comes on the heels of its expansion last year into the enterprise market, when it launched the X2, its first enterprise drone. The company has said that with the new investment it plans to expand globally and accelerate product development. The company has also launched a suite of software for commercial and enterprise customers.
That’s all for this week. Enjoy the weekend and the song of the week, Creedence Clearwater Revival’s Long As I Can See The Light.