Since taking the CEO helm of Apple Inc. in 2011, Tim Cook hasn't exactly been known as an aggressive risk-taker — at least not compared to his predecessor, Steve Jobs. Most of his announcements have been relatively minor tweaks to existing products and projects, with little in the way or major new work. But at the company's annual shareholder meeting on Friday, Cook took at least one major stand — for the environment.
Since taking over for Jobs, Cook has led Apple towards a push for greener and more renewable energy. More than three-quarters of the company's facilities worldwide, including all of its data centers and its Cupertino HQ, now run on solar, wind, geothermal or hydro power, up from about one-quarter under Jobs. And last year, Cook hired Lisa Jackson, former head of the EPA, to lead the company's sustainability efforts.
While a lot of people think this is positive news, the National Center for Public Policy Research, a conservative think tank based in Washington, D.C. and an Apple shareholder, is less thrilled about Cook's actions. At the shareholders meeting, the NCPPR submitted a proposal urging Cook and the board to refrains from pursuing any additional environmental initiatives that didn't directly profit the company.
"We object to increased government control over company products and operations, and likewise mandatory environmental standards," wrote NCPPR general counsel Justin Danhof in a statement before the meeting. "This is something [Apple] should be actively fighting, not preparing surrender."
Cook was not pleased. Besides arguing that environmental efforts often make economic sense, Apple does "a lot of things for reasons besides profit motive. We want to leave the world better than we found it."
One reporter in attendance from the Mac Observer noted what followed was the only time he can remember seeing Cook visibly angry. "When we work on making our devices accessible by the blind," Cook said, "I don't consider the bloody [return on investment]."
And if that doesn't float your boat, no problem, there's an easy solution: "Get out of the stock," Cook said. Danhof's idea was shot down by the shareholders, receiving just 2.95% of the vote. While it may seem like a strange move to actively agitate such a large and powerful shareholder over a matter of ideals and principle, Cook's actions speak to both Apple's position in the market as an ultra-powerful company as well as his own sincere commitment to the environment. Cook isn't just posturing, this is for real.