Tim Cook lashed out at shortsighted, bottom line-driven investors during Friday’s annual shareholders meeting — telling them to “get out of [Apple] stock.”
The exchange concerned the conservative think tank National Center for Public Policy Research, which was pushing Apple to disclose the cost of its sustainability programs, and the impact this had on the company’s earning power.
Cook was asked about Apple’s plans to have 100 percent of its power come from green sources — and whether this was the case only because of government subsidies on green energy.
Asked to commit point-blank to only pursuing moves immediately profitable to Apple, Cook responded with anger — noting that Apple does many things because they are right and just, and not simply about making a return on investment (ROI).
“When we work on making our devices accessible by the blind, I don’t consider the bloody ROI,” he said.
The same, Cook noted, applied to other areas in which Apple is blazing a trail — such as environmental issues, and worker safety.
Cook then advized the NCPPR representative that, “If you want me to do things only for ROI reasons, you should get out of this stock.”
Unlike Steve Jobs, Cook is known for being calm and even-tempered. His response to this line of questioning — which included the word “bloody” and a notable change in body language — is one of the few times he has been reported as visibly angered.
During his tenure at Apple, Cook has been a driving force in making Apple’s image as a social and environmental “force for good” match the sterling reputation of its products. Having previously been labeled the “least green” tech company by Greenpeace due to its reliance on coal at data centers, Apple has made the conscious decision for its $5.5 billion Apple 2 “spaceship” headquarters to have 70% of its power provided on-site by photovoltaics and fuel cells, with the remaining power covered by sustainable “green sources” in California. The company has additionally teamed up with Nevada’s largest power utility company to build a solar farm, while its data center in Maiden, North Carolina is now powered by 100% renewable sources.
When it comes to worker rights, Cook has also been keen to improve Apple’s image — focusing on avoiding illegal overtime and the employment of underage workers in its overseas factories.
The NCPRR has posted its own account of the Tim Cook exchange under the headline: Tim Cook to Apple investors: Drop Dead. It includes remarks from general counsel Justin Danhof, who was the man who confronted Cook.
“Although the National Center’s proposal did not receive the required votes to pass, millions of Apple shareholders now know that the company is involved with organizations that don’t appear to have the best interest of Apple’s investors in mind,” said Danhof. “Too often investors look at short-term returns and are unaware of corporate policy decisions that may affect long-term financial prospects. After today’s meeting, investors can be certain that Apple is wasting untold amounts of shareholder money to combat so-called climate change. The only remaining question is: how much?”
Danhof is director of the NCPPR’s Free Enterprise Project, which describes its mission as “expos[ing] efforts by left-wing interest groups to divert businesses away from best practices and into left-wing advocacy.”