A conservative think tank’s pestering about how much Apple’s sustainability efforts cost shareholders just about drove the typically reserved Tim Cook around the bend last Friday.
The drama unfolded at an Apple shareholder meeting, when a representative of a group that calls itself the National Center for Public Policy Research and that rejects the widely held science on climate change, asked the Apple CEO if he would commit to putting profitability first in running Apple – that is, no sinking resources into cutting carbon emissions simply to save the planet. (Apple is working toward running it operations entirely on renewable energy.)
“What ensued was the only time I can recall seeing Tim Cook angry, and he categorically rejected the worldview behind the NCPPR’s advocacy. He said that there are many things Apple does because they are right and just, and that a return on investment (ROI) was not the primary consideration on such issues.
‘When we work on making our devices accessible by the blind,’ he said, ‘I don’t consider the bloody ROI.’ He said that the same thing about environmental issues, worker safety, and other areas where Apple is a leader.
“As evidenced by the use of ‘bloody’ in his response—the closest thing to public profanity I’ve ever seen from Mr. Cook–it was clear that he was quite angry. His body language changed, his face contracted, and he spoke in rapid fire sentences compared to the usual metered and controlled way he speaks.
“He didn’t stop there, however, as he looked directly at the NCPPR representative and said, ‘If you want me to do things only for ROI reasons, you should get out of this stock.’”
The NCPPR, whose proposal to require Apple to divulge the cost of sustainability programs was supported by just 2.95 percent of the shareholder vote, said Cook’s statements left investors “to wonder just how much shareholder value is being destroyed in efforts to combat ‘climate change.’”
“Here’s the bottom line: Apple is as obsessed with the theory of so-called climate change as its board member Al Gore is,” Justin Danhof, director of the National Center’s Free Enterprise Project, said in a statement. “The company’s CEO fervently wants investors who care more about return on investments than reducing CO2 emissions to no longer invest in Apple. Maybe they should take him up on that advice.”