If you follow Apple closely you probably heard this story reported from various news sources within the last week or so. The original story covering this event was written by Bryan Chaffin at the Mac Observer.
Here's what happened... Apple held its annual shareholder meeting. During this meeting one of the shareholders of Apple, the National Center for Public Policy Research (NCPPR) was pushing a proposal to have Apple disclose the costs of it's sustainability programs and initiatives. The concern being that large companies like Apple need to stop making important decisions while taking into considering environmental or societal concerns. This was obviously a very politically driven proposal by a group who politics is clearly against the concept of global warming. Their proposal only received 2.95% of the vote so it was soundly defeated. However, during the question and answer period the NCPPR representative asked Tim Cook two questions:
- The 1st question was a concern that Apple's idea to move towards having 100% of it's power needs come from green sources would be bad for the bottom line.
- The 2nd question was asking Tim Cook to commit to making decisions for Apple in the future based purely on Return On Investment (ROI).
Tim Cook is a pretty level-headed guy, but these questions from the NCPPR representative got him pretty fired up. Tim's response was:
"When we work on making our devices accessible by the blind I don't consider the bloody ROI."
Tim pretty much said the same thing when it came to Apple's environmental programs and policies. He also followed up with the following statement to the NCPPR representative:
"If you want me to do things only for ROI reasons, you should get out of this stock."
Bryan Chaffin's follow story covered some additional criticism from the NCPPR's CEO Amy Ridenour who posted more comments in a blog post that essentially claimed that Apple was simply "faking" it's pro-environment stance as a way to make them look better in the eyes of the public. She even goes on to claim that Tim Cook faked his anger during the response to the NCPPR representative's questions at the annual shareholders meeting.
Politics aside, this is why this is such a big deal...
I'm not invested in Apple financially, although if you look at the number of Apple products I rely on each day you could make an argument that I am heavily invested in Apple. Tim Cook's response to the NCPPR was exactly what I wanted to hear. I say this not from the standpoint of an environmentalist or a financial person but rather from the standpoint of a consumer. You can't run a successful business and base all of your decision purely on profit. At the end of the day a company's profit depends on customers wanting to buy their products. There are many factors that go into someone desiring a certain products but I think most people would agree that enjoying the use of a product and respecting the company that makes that product goes a long way to increasing the demand for that product. The "enjoyability" (yes I just made up that word) of a product and the respect one has for a company is not something that can be derived from a financial equation. People are complicated and because of that their reactions to a particular company or product are equally complicated. You can't represent that in the form of an equation. Return On Investment (ROI) is a factor for a company making major decisions but it is not the factor. In fact, there is no single factor a company can use to plot its course that will ensure it will succeed. That is why you need a true leader at the helm that is willing to do "the right thing", even when the right thing isn't immediately seen as something that will increase profits. Think of it this way. The next time you are at the Genius Bar in an Apple Store with a broken Apple products that is just a few months outside of warranty ask yourself this...do you think it is a good idea from the perspective of Apple's bottom line for Apple to go ahead and fix or replace your broken product even though it is out of warranty? In the short term it makes financial sense for Apple to make you pay for that repair. But in the long run it makes good business sense to take a small hit to near term profits and replace the product and invest in you as a long term customer. If you walk out of that Apple store feeling like you have been taken care of you are much more likely to return and purchase more Apple products.
Steve Jobs was not a nice person, but he was an incredibly driven and focused individual who knew what he wanted and what it took to get there. I was worried about the future of Apple when we lost Steve. Tim Cook is no Steve Jobs, but I think the events of the last few weeks have shown us all that Tim Cook is Tim Cook and he has what it takes lead Apple to success for many years to come. Tim is a much different leader than Steve. Tim has a unique mix of business and financial smarts that Steven didn't naturally have and he has a good heart.
As a consumer that loves his Apple products I have this message for Tim Cook...stick to your guns and follow your heart and we will all win.