Lessons from Loblaws on how not to react in a crisis.

By Amber Hudson and Luke Sklar

“It’s tragic.  It’s tragic and it’s inevitable, I guess, in terms of the way things have been managed in some of these countries.”

–Galen Weston, Chairman of George Weston Ltd, in reaction to the factory collapse in Bangladesh where Joe Fresh clothes are manufactured

We at EIM are stunned by this quote.  We love Galen and Joe Mimram; Joe has done a bang up job of bringing fashion excitement to the tedious task of grocery shopping.  We have no doubt Galen is devastated over what happened to those workers and their families.  And we have no doubt of the sincerity behind wanting to make amends by compensating (a yet to be disclosed sum) the workers’ families.   But “It’s inevitable, I guess.”  Really??

By the way, is it just me or is the word “compensate” (their word, not mine), a peculiar choice?  Don’t airlines “compensate” for lost luggage?

Anyway…

If Galen believed it was bound to happen should Loblaws / Joe Fresh not have acted to prevent this tragedy? Should they be held accountable?  Is the offered compensation an admission of guilt?  Or is it good PR?  The answer, in fact, doesn’t matter.  Even if you are not responsible….the lesson is you are responsible.  High profile brand guardians should have a war room and contingency team available before anything like this happens. And, should the worst happen, speak fast, take responsibility and do the right thing. At minimum, fund a program that makes a tragedy like this less “inevitable”…