Apple’s environmental record
Perhaps unsurprisingly, Apple’s environmental record and policies occupied a good chunk of the Q&A discussion. Apple took advantage of several shareholder questions to tout the company’s recent report on supplier sustainability (available on the Apple Website). Jobs claimed that Apple is the first company to work directly with suppliers on issues such as environmental impact and worker education and protection.
Taking a jab at other companies, as well as organizations such as Greenpeace, he noted that “other companies just make promises” and attend conferences and events to “schmooze with [environmental groups], but the work ain’t getting done,” whereas Apple is actually taking steps to improve the company’s real-world green credentials and treatment of workers.
Tim Cook added that Apple audited more than 100 suppliers in 2009, and more than half of those reported that they’d never been audited by a company other than Apple.
Similarly, in response to a comment that being green is also good for business, Jobs agreed, noting that by decreasing the size of product boxes, Apple has reduced the number of 747 cargo flights needed each year by the hundreds. “It’s the right thing to do from an environmental point of view; it’s the right thing to do from a business point of view.” Jobs also claimed that Apple is the leader in its industry when it comes to recycling, reducing toxins, smaller packaging, and workers’ rights.
(One shareholder, who had previously in the meeting spoken out against the two shareholder proposals, made the claim that global warming isn’t a serious issue and asked why Apple resigned its membership in the U.S. Chamber of Commerce over green policies.. Jobs replied, “I guess we have a difference of opinion.”)
Jobs also gave stockholders a glimpse of the company’s view on cash and short-term investments, currently around $40 billion, when a shareholder asked if the company would consider using part of its cash hoard to provide dividends.
Jobs noted that having a lot of cash in the bank gives the company stability, allowing it to be technologically risky while remaining fiscally conservative. The cash also puts the company in a position to “acquire something” without having to borrow money.
The board’s goal, according to Jobs, is to generate high stock prices, pointing out that the company’s stock price is based in large part on its ability to continue to grow. The board doesn’t think the stock price would change much if dividends were distributed, and most investors would rather have a business with $40 billion in the bank than the same company, with the same stock price, without money in the bank.