Tim Cook, Apple’s famously calm and collected CEO, had a rare outburst toward a representative of a conservative think tank at its annual shareholder meeting.
The National Center for Public Policy Research put forth a proposal to Apple shareholders that would force the company to disclose information about its programs to act more sustainably by using green energy and materials with smaller environmental impacts.
The proposal was rejected by the vast majority of Apple shareholders, receiving approval from only 2.95% of voters.
That didn’t stop a representative from the think tank from asking a couple of pointed questions during the meeting’s question-and-answer session.
The Mac Observer’s Bryan Chaffin reports that the representative asked just two questions. The first, whether Apple’s investments in green energy was only worth it because of government subsidies, was passed over by Cook.
The second, in which the representative asked Cook to commit on the spot to only making moves that were profitable for the company, drew the most intense comeback we’ve heard from the executive. Chaffin writes:
“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 English 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.”
That didn’t go over too well at the NCPPR. In a press release titled “Tim Cook to Apple Investors: Drop Dead,” the organisation quotes Justin Danhof, director of the think tank’s Free Enterprise Project, claiming that Apple is under the control of an “Al gore [sic] contingency”:
Danhof went on to ask if Cook was willing to amend Apple’s corporate documents to indicate that the company would not pursue environmental initiatives that have some sort of reasonable return on investment — similar to the concession the National Center recently received from General Electric. This question was greeted by boos and hisses from the Al gore contingency in the room.
“Here’s the bottom line: Apple is as obsessed with the theory of so-called climate change as its board member Al Gore is,” said Danhof. “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.”
“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 organisations 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?”
While Apple investors can decide for themselves whether Justin Danhof’s statements on returning value for shareholders hold merit, the idea that “millions” of Apple shareholders are only now discovering the company’s sustainability efforts seems silly — the company regularly publishes reports on its environmental footprint, renewable energy efforts, and the materials used in its biggest product lines.
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