Tim Cook reveals how Apple thinks different about charity

By

Tim WWDC
Apple CEO Tim Cook at WWDC 2017.
Photo: Apple

After Apple ranked third in Fortune’s annual list of companies that Change the World, Tim Cook sat down for a wide-ranging interview to discuss how Apple is making a dent in the universe now.

The Apple CEO talked about everything from education and health initiatives to how Cupertino thinks different about charity. He also revealed that some of Apple’s research and development regarding health and wellness won’t ever be about making money.

Here are some of the highlights:

Tim Cook on human rights

Asked how Apple is still changing the world after Steve Jobs’ passing, Cook first pointed to the company’s products, saying it’s one of the only corporations in the world that makes devices for everyone. Because Apple cares so much about making something great for everyone, that spills over into other areas as well.

“We advocate for human rights, because Apple has always been about making products for everyone. And, arguably, if people are treated as second-class citizens in any part of the world, then it’s kind of hard to accomplish that objective.

We believe education is a great equalizer. And so we try our best to bring education to the mainstream. And right now our major thrust is in coding because we think that coding is the sort of the second language for everyone in the world. And that’s regardless of whether they’re in technology or not. I think that you don’t have to be in technology for coding to be very important.”

On ResearchKit and health

The creation of ResearchKit, Apple’s platform for medical research, helped bring medicine into the digital age. It makes it easier than ever to find applicants for a medical study.

Cook says Apple’s still working on a lot of stuff in the medical field. Some of that will have commercial business applications, while other bits clearly won’t.

“The way that research was being conducted was sort of an old-world kind of thing. People were still putting classified ads in to try to get subjects to sign up. We put out ResearchKit [a software developers tool] and made it a source so that people could run enormous-sized studies. And there have been studies in Parkinson’s and so forth that literally are the largest studies ever in the history of the world.

And we’re just scratching the surface right now. There’s no business model there. Honestly, we don’t make any money on that. But it was something that we thought would be good for society and so we did it. Will it eventually lead us somewhere? We’ll find out. I can’t answer that today.”

On why Apple never set up a charitable foundation

A lot of big corporations set up charitable foundations that help them do good deeds. Cook says he considered making one early on in his tenure as CEO, but ultimately decided not to because he wanted all of Apple’s employees to be behind the company’s efforts.

“I looked at it in early 2012. And I decided not to do it. And here’s why. When a company sets up a foundation, there is a risk, in my judgment, of the foundation becoming this other thing that is not connected to the company. It has a separate board of directors. They make reasonably independent decisions sometimes. It becomes a separate thing. I don’t want that for Apple. I want everybody involved. Because I think that the power that we bring, the things that we can do is because we’re stronger — it’s with our unity there. It’s when we put all of ourselves in it.

We don’t work on that many things. But we try to put all of ourselves in it.

If we had a foundation, my fear was it becomes something that 10 or 12 or 20 or 50 people do. And all of a sudden for the 120,000, it’s just this separate thing out there. People work here to change the world. So I think that should be integral to what the company does. Not peripheral in a foundation.”

Fortune’s interview with Cook covers a lot of other topics, too, such as iOS 11 and how Apple deals with the fact that many people view iPhones and iPads as tools of bad social behavior. Head over and read the whole thing for more insights into what makes Apple tick.