Corporations have obligations to their shareholders, but during Apple’s Financial Results report for Q2 2020, Tim Cook made it clear that his corporate responsibility demands obligations to the community as well.

Corporate Responsibility

A pandemic tends to be the great Truth Teller. It brings into sharp focus truths that have been glosed over. Tim Cook’s opening remarks highlighted the truth that corporations, especially large and wealthy ones, must recognize and act on, as he said, the “broader obligations to the community.”

Tim Cook on stage

What does this mean? For example, companies exploit the resources of the planet for profit. But we all share the same planet. So corporations bear a responsibility to mitigate—even improve—the impact of their actions. Apple takes this responsibility seriously.

In CEO Cook’s opening remarks, in a similar vein, he outlined a broad array of actions Apple has taken to fulfill its obligations in the face of a grave health threat. For example, manufacturing one million face shields per week for healthcare workers. Charitable donations. COVID-19 self-assessment apps. Contact tracing API (with Google). Continuing to pay wages to retail store employees while its stores are closed. And, quoting Cook:

“In this difficult environment, our users are depending on Apple products in renewed ways to stay connected, informed, creative, and productive. We feel motivated and inspired to not only keep meeting these needs in innovative ways, but to continue giving back to support the global response, from the tens of millions of face masks and custom-built face shields we’ve sent to medical professionals around the world, to the millions we’ve donated to organizations like Global Citizen and America’s Food Fund.”

Sharp Contrast

This corporate value is in sharp contrast to some who, it seems, have felt that it has been wholly appropriate to abuse and exploit its customers. Because it was profitable and easy to get away with.

If there was any cynical belief that Apple’s legacy focus on personal health, the environment and customer privacy and security were simply a ruse for its handsome profits, that conceit is now laid bare as a falsehood during this life-threatening pandemic.

Again, we see the sharp contrast to some other companies who have been slow to protect their workers in crowded plants and warehouses. Substantial monies were also at their disposal, but their delayed actions and focus on profits did not do a good job of fulfilling their obligations to the community.

Even tougher times may be ahead for Apple, but it’s been great to see how Apple has used its corporate sense of obligation to calibrate its course through a major, worldwide crisis. More than ever, we respect and admire the leadership of Tim Cook.

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