Apple CEO Tim Cook to climate denying, oil industry front group: get lost

by David Pomerantz

March 2, 2014

Apple has strengthened its commitment to sustainability in recent years: the company has pledged to power its data centers with 100 % renewable energy, is using solar and geothermal power at a new factory in Arizona, and has become more transparent about its manufacturing supply chain and energy use.

On Friday, CEO Tim Cook added another reason that people who care about sustainability can start thinking of him and Apple as leaders he stared down an anti-environment, climate denying group who challenged Apples increasingly green record, and told them to get lost.

The group, the National Center for Public Policy Research, confronted Cook at Apples annual shareholder meeting, charging that the companys embrace of renewable energy was bad for business.

Before getting on to Cooks response, which was pitch perfect, its worth noting exactly who the NCPPR is, since the vanilla-sounding name doesnt offer much. The NCPPR is a front group for fossil fuel companies that has spent decades seeding lies to create doubt about the reality of global warming. It received $445,000 in funding from Exxon Mobil from 1998 to 2008. More recently, the front group has marched in lockstep with the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a corporate bill mill that has produced model state legislation for discriminatory voter ID laws, Stand Your Ground gun laws, and attacks on clean energy. In 2012, when many corporations were dropping their ALEC memberships in response to the controversy surrounding its promotion of Stand Your Ground laws in the wake of the Trayvon Martin shooting, NCPPR actually tried to recruit them back on ALEC’s behalf.

At Apples shareholder meeting on Friday, an NCPPR representative submitted a resolution asking that Apple ditch its sustainability efforts to focus only on its profit margin. Cook defended Apples environmental initiatives as economically sound, before adding that even if they werent, the company would implement them anyway. If the NCPPR doesnt like it, they can get out of Apples stock, Cook concluded. From Mashable, and MacObserver:

“We do a lot of things for reasons besides profit motive,” the CEO said. “We want to leave the world better than we found it.”

When we work on making our devices accessible by the blind, he said, I don’t consider the bloody ROI. If you want me to do things only for ROI reasons, you should get out of this stock.

Cook could have added countless other reasons that sustainability is good for Apples business. Renewable energy is increasingly cheaper than coal, nuclear and gas power, so Apples investments are lowering its bills in the long run.

Perhaps more importantly, Apples customers simply expect the company to be green. Meeting that expectation is one of the ways that Apple has become the most popular company, with some of the fiercest brand lk oyalists, in the world. NCPPRs notion that Apples environmental record runs contrary to its financial success is simply laughable – in fact, it’s integral to it.

Cooks smackdown wont make the same directly positive environmental impact as Apples investments in clean energy. But taking the stand he took does matter, and not just because it feels good to watch the clowns at NCPPR publicly embarrassed, though it does. Apple is widely recognized as one of the most innovative and profitable companies in the world. When its CEO vigorously defends the notion that sustainability is profitable and that even if it wasnt, it would still be worth doing that sends a loud message to the rest of the business community.

As Apple is proving, the smart money is with sustainability. Other CEOs would serve their companies and shareholders well to follow Cooks example.

David Pomerantz

By David Pomerantz

David Pomerantz is a former Senior Climate and Energy Campaigner for Greenpeace USA, based in San Francisco. He helps lead Greenpeace's campaign for an economy powered by 100% renewable energy.

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