Apple seeks to silence activist shareholders at its annual general meeting

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Apple doesn't want to talk sustainability or human rights at its 2018 AGM.
Photo: Ste Smith/Cult of Mac

Apple may be very happy to talk environmental issues and human rights when it suits it to do so — but not at its shareholder meetings.

According to a new report, Apple is “pushing back” on four activist shareholder proposals to discuss these issues at its annual general meeting (AGM) early in 2018. The reason? Because Apple says they relate to “ordinary business” and are already areas that Apple is dealing with. In other words, don’t worry about it!

Apple made the request to leave the issues off the proxy it will file with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, in a letter sent last month. The attorney, Gene Levoff, cited guidance issued from the SEC saying that company boards are typically best positioned to decide if a resolution raises significant policy issues that are worth putting to a vote.

Not everyone will be happy if Apple is allowed to do this, however. According to Sanford Lewis, a Massachusetts attorney representing Apple shareholders who filed two of the resolutions, it could set, “an incredibly dangerous precedent that would essentially say a great many proposals could be omitted.”

Sustainability and human rights

To be fair to Apple, it is one of the more proactive companies when it comes to areas like sustainability. In its recent guide to tech companies proactively pursuing environmentally friendly policies, Greenpeace awarded Apple A- on its efforts involving sustainable energy.

CEO Tim Cook has been very outspoken about his commitment to the environment while at Apple, noting that he wants the company to be a “force for good” in the world. In the past, he has lashed out at shortsighted, bottom line-driven investors by telling them to “get out of [Apple] stock” if they weren’t willing to get on board with the company’s green agenda.

As part of his trip to Europe earlier this year, Tim Cook visited with one of the companies which supplies Apple’s sustainably sourced packaging. Apple also published a new “Paper and Packaging Strategy” white paper, laying out the various measures the company is taking to lower the environmental impact its packaging has on the world.

When it comes to human rights, Apple has pushed its suppliers to crack down on issues like illegal overtime, while also attempting to rid the Apple supply chain of conflict minerals, which cause human rights violations around the world.

Source: Reuters