In a testy exchange with shareholders, Apple CEO Tim Cook declared last week that his company has values that extend beyond corporate profits, and urged those who dispute prevailing beliefs on climate change to not invest in the company. The dispute came when a group of investors objected to Apple investing in unprofitable "green" enterprises for what it charged were ideological reasons.
"Responding to calls from the National Centre for Public Policy Research (NCPPR), a conservative think tank and investor, for Apple to refrain from putting money in green energy projects that were not profitable, he shot back that Apple did 'a lot of things for reasons besides profit motive.' The chief executive added: 'We want to leave the world better than we found it,'” The Independent (UK) reported.
In short, Apple's Cook argued that the company is entitled to invest in dubious green investments out of social responsibility motives, even if profits are known to be improbable.
Addressing he NCPPR representative directly, he said: “If you want me to do things only for ROI [return on investment] reasons, you should get out of this stock,” according to the Independent report.
The challenging investors were led by The National Center for Public Policy Research, a group that challenges the prevailing climate consensus. After the meeting, NCPPR issued a press release.
"Here's the bottom line: Apple is as obsessed with the theory of so-called climate change as its board member Al Gore is," said NCPPR's Dustin Danhof in the press release. "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."
The theory that a corporation's overriding obligation is to maximize shareholder value is of recent vintage, the Washington Post reported last summer. "The mantra that executives and corporate board members have a duty to maximize shareholder value has become so ingrained that many people assume it must be codified somewhere. But legal experts say there is no statute in state or federal law requiring corporations and executives to maximize shareholder value," the Post reported.
The environmental values dispute at the Apple shareholder meetings takes place against a backdrop of the Supreme Court's preparations to decide whether two privately held companies (which obviously have no public shareholders) can claim religious values in their dispute over Obamacare mandates that they claim violate the owner's deeply held beliefs.
Both the Apple shareholder dispute and Hobby Lobby Supreme Court case center on whether corporations, which are legally categorized as persons, can also be thought of as having souls.
Hobby Lobby is joined in the Supreme Court docket by another privately held company, reports Dahlia Lithwick at Slate, with the "two religious families that own the businesses challenging the birth control mandate argue that the law’s bar on government efforts to 'substantially burden a person's exercise of religion' applies to corporations as well as people. Hobby Lobby operates more than 500 arts-and-craft stores and employs about 13,000 people. It operates "in a manner consistent with biblical principles." (It’s closed on Sundays, for instance.) Conestoga Wood Specialties is a Pennsylvania woodworking firm run by a Mennonite family that employs almost 1,000 workers."
“No one should be forced to give up their constitutionally protected civil rights just to go into business," said Kyle Duncan, lead attorney for Hobby Lobby, according to CNN. "The filing demonstrates in no uncertain terms that the government's efforts to strip this family business of its religious rights represent a gross violation of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act and the First Amendment."