Monday, 22 April 2019


When something goes very wrong the biggest companies seem to hang on, not so much by their fingertips as by one finger whilst cocking a snoot with the other hand. It’s amazing that the Costa cruise brand, VW and Boeing all seem to be in such rude health after their respective calamities.

The Costa Concordia foundered with 32 deaths, the Costa brand being now emblazoned on 17 skyscraper ships. The share price of owner, Carnival, dipped by 20% after the accident but was followed by a swift and sustained recovery. VW under assault following their emissions scandal is being sued in the US together with CEO Martin Winterkorn and four other executives but “shock-horror” has been largely followed by “yawn-so-what”. Their share price down to €132 after the scandal broke is now at €164. Boeing’s calamities, two planes crashing with allegedly similar causes and 347 fatalities is remarkable in a world where, first of all, air disasters are increasingly unusual and, secondly, because no other commercial aircraft has been implicated in so many fatalities in so short a period since 1966. Their share price is only down 15% despite a monthly cost in grounding the 737 MAX of around $1billion. “Could they go bust?” I asked a friend to a derisory snort of “of course not; follow the share price”.
There are too many rich, dispassionate interests in all these companies to be overly fussed by a few deaths. The 72 poor, lost souls in the Grenfell tragedy were faced with more anger, outrage and animation to allocate blame. The same will happen in the death-free Notre Dame fire. Blame is a cheap commodity except when mega companies are involved. Do we really believe Facebook would have survived as unscathed as it is it had been a small company?
Ruth Rochelle, mentor and consultant, said about scale-ups in business that at the moment of raising funds to go to the next stage “idealism takes a kicking.” I think that she’s right and I think it’s a pity. It’s idealism that’s inspiring the Climate Change demonstrations (and about time) but they are spending more time dreaming than making a big difference. When they stuck themselves to Jeremy Corbyn’s fence I wondered if they’d gone mad but when he refused to engage them in conversation I realised he’d completely lost the common touch that got him where he is today. This beautiful summer Bank Holiday – it’s far too good for Spring – has restored our faith in ourselves. We are just not a big company country, we only have 4 in the top 100 global companies and two of those are petroleum companies (one 50% Dutch) one’s a bank and one’s another 50% Dutch business. We simply do small better. We are more like Waitrose than Asda; more like Bill’s than Burger King.
As the sun gives those climate change protesters “this-isn’t right-in-April” suntanned faces, applaud the fact that so many care about something other than money.

No comments: