The evasions of Thomas Cook

So have Thomas Cook been indulging in corporate evasion to protect senior executives?

Many of you will have read the deeply distressing story in which two young children were killed by carbon monoxide gas which leaked into their hotel bedroom in Greece. The parents have fought to bring the travel agents Thomas Cook to account for the deaths and this week the inquest jury found that the company had breached its duty of care.

And you will have noticed the failure of their group chief executive Peter Fankhauser to apologise on behalf of the firm or answer direct questions.

As always I am interested in the wording used by the company when it issues a statement after a verdict.

A spokesperson said: “The systems which were in place in 2006, which were intended to prevent such a tragedy, have since been thoroughly revised and address the criticisms made by the jury. Thomas Cook works with dedicated specialist external health and safety experts to audit holiday properties. The health and safety of our customers is of paramount importance.”

Those of you who have followed my blog will see that this statement follows the usual corporate defensive approach.

There is the usual vacuous general statement of principle (last sentence) that focuses on current policy. There is the usual insistence that the criticisms made of the company’s approach had already been addressed (you see this sort of statement after almost every report criticising a company).

There is the focus on procedures – though Thomas Cook define them as systems – a typical corporate response usually designed to distance executives from responsibility for their actions.

And this distancing from individual executive responsibility is made so much easier by using the passive.

Thomas Cook’s statement refers to “the systems which were in place in 2006” but does not tell us which individual was responsible for these systems at the time.

So is this just slipshod language; or is this statement part of a calculated strategy designed to protect executives and shift the blame to inanimate things like processes.

I leave it to you to decide.


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