The Moral Life of Corporations   /   Summer 2009   /    Essays

The Responsibility Gap

Joshua D. Margolis

At 4:10 a.m. on December 26, 2004, Mikael Edwards was roused from his post- holiday sleep by an odd phone call. The voice on the other end alerted him that cars were floating in the swimming pool at one of the hotels where Edwards’s


company had booked customers for the holidays. Edwards was an operations manager for Fritidsresor, a Swedish charter tour company. The night after Christmas turned out to be his shift for getting all emergency calls: everything from customers experiencing food poisoning and getting arrested to buses getting flat tires. As Edwards tells it, a car floating in the pool is not as outlandish as it may seem to us, especially for a company accustomed to college students on spring break. But the phone call early that morn- ing launched ten intense hours for the company as it struggled to figure out what had happened in Thailand, where the hotel was located. The executive team at Fritidsresor gradually discovered they were dealing with a massive tsunami affecting Indonesia, Sri Lanka, India, and Thailand. A quarter of a million people lost their lives.

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