« View All Blog Posts

Applauding Apple CEO, Tim Cook, for Recognizing the Value of Non-Financial Returns
By Holly Testa, Director, Shareowner Engagement

By Holly Testa, Director, Shareowner Engagement

Apple CEO, Tim Cook soundly rejected the notion that the company stop investing in sustainability—and other things where the ROI is difficult to measure but creates long-term value.

“If you want me to do things only for ROI [return on investment] reasons, you should get out of this stock.” – Tim Cook, CEO of Apple

The National Center for Public Policy Research (NCPPR), a conservative foundation skeptical of climate change data and espousing free market solutions, had filed a shareholder resolution asking Apple to report on membership in organizations that facilitate the development and engagement in sustainability practices or require sustainability practices, membership to sustainability rating organizations, and payments made by Apple to these organizations.

While on the surface this is a simple request for additional transparency, the NCPPR is publicly taking direct aim at Apple’s extensive commitment to sustainability practices. During the question-and-answer session, the NCPPR representative questioned whether Apple’ s sustainability programs and goals, like Apple’s plans to have 100% of its power come from green sources, were “ good for the bottom line.” He also asked Mr. Cook to commit to “doing only those things that are profitable.”

The CEO focused on the second question in what observers say was an uncharacteristically passionate response. Cook said that Apple did a lot of things for reason besides the profit motive and added, “we want to leave the world better than we found it.”

He cited an example: “When we work on making our devices accessible by the blind, I don’t consider the bloody ROI,” and added that the same sentiment applied to environmental and health and safety issues.

Apple shareowners obviously find merit in Apple’s approach, as the MCPPR resolution garnered less than 3% of the shareholder vote, well below the threshold of 5% required to have the proposal put forth at next year’s annual meeting.

The shareholder resolution and this blog posted by NCPPR points out the stark differences between those who believe that climate change is the challenge of our times and one that denies climate change should be considered at all. This difference in worldview leads to starkly differing opinions on how shareholder dollars should be used to ensure the long-term prospects of a company.


First Affirmative understands that the ways we save, spend, and invest can dramatically influence both the fabric and consciousness of society. We believe that in addition to the benefits of ownership, investors bear responsibility for the impact our money has in the world. Are you making conscious decisions about the impact of your consumer purchase and investment decisions?

Mention of specific companies or securities should not be considered a recommendation to buy or sell that security. Past performance is no guarantee of future results.

Posted: March 31, 2014