Climate Change Deniers Should Sell Apple Stock, Says Tim Cook

Peter Judge has been involved with tech B2B publishing in the UK for many years, working at Ziff-Davis, ZDNet, IDG and Reed. His main interests are networking security, mobility and cloud

Apple CEO loses his rag when climate change deniers criticise Apple’s green energy projects at a shareholder meeting

Apple is facing criticism from climate change deniers and environmentalists alike, after Tim Cook told a right-wing pressure group it should sell Apple stock if it doesn’t believe in man-made global warming.

The National Center for Public Policy Research (NCPPR), a think-tank that denies climate change, asked the CEO to justify Apple’s green policies, which include a commitment to use 100 percent renewable energy in its data centres.  Tim Cook responded that the investments were justified, but if the NCPPR was only interested in return-on-investment calculations, its members should sell their Apple shares. Despite Cook’s visible passion, other observers have since pointed out that environmentalists still have plenty of issues with the company, including its hard-to-repair laptops and tablets which add to e-waste.

Apple surveillance security magnifying glass © cunaplus Shutterstock

Eco-measures are not just for ROI

Apple does not just consider return on investment when making environmental and other decisions, said Cooke:  “When we work on making our devices accessible by the blind, I don’t consider the bloody ROI,” he said, and added that the same applies to environmental concerns.

Justin Danhof of the NCPPR had got him riled by demanding to know whether Apple’s renewable energy policies improved the bottom line, clearly implying that Apple should focus on making a profit, not saving the planet.

“If you want me to do things only for ROI reasons, you should get out of this stock,” Cook said, implying that Apple would pursue environmental goals even if they did not make a direct return for the company.

As Mac Observer, present at the meeting,  reported: “It was a clear rejection of the climate change denial, anything-for-the-sake-of-profits politics espoused by the NCPPR. It was also an unequivocal message that Apple would continue to invest in sustainable energy and related areas.”

In response, NCCPR accused Apple of ignoring investors’ concerns:  “Here’s the  bottom line,” said Danhof in a release from NCPPR. “Apple is as obsessed with the theory of so-called climate change as its board member Al Gore is. 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.”

Danhof continued: “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?”

Apple’s not so green?

For others, the issue is more complex, since Apple’s approach to various areas of its business is not equally green. Blogger Tim Worstall suggested that the company may actually be following the bottom line, but be unable to say so.

Renewable energy often gets government subsidies and can work out as a positive move, and other actions such as removing conflict minerals including tantalum from devices, can increase business through an improved public image, said Worstall.

But other moves from Apple clearly don’t put the planet first, Worstall said, pointing out that the firm uses air freight instead of sea transport to deliver its iPhones and iPads, and builds its devices in a way that increases e-waste.

“All iPads and iPhones are flown from the manufacturing plants to the distribution warehouses,” said Worstall. “The reason is that the interest on stock is higher than the air freight costs. So, it’s actually cheaper, costs less overall, to fly than ship them by sea. And CO2 emissions be damned where the bottom line is concerned.”

He also pointed out that Apple makes its devices hard to upgrade, repair or recycle: “One example is the practice of gluing batteries into place meaning that once you’ve gone through the battery’s lifespan of recharges you’ve got to junk the entire device,” said Worstall, pointing out that the planet loses as another device goes to landfill, while Apple gains by selling a new device.

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