Last year was the first time Apple’s annual revenues shrank since 2001, just before their late CEO Steve Jobs introduced the iPod music device.
Business journalists cited various reasons for the disappointing results. Part of the blame was placed on weaker than expected sales of the iPhone 6s, which Apple anticipated would draw stronger interest in upgrades from current users. Others noted the lukewarm reception to Apple’s smartwatch, and the company’s failure to wow the public with any new products since Jobs died in 2011. And some point to the fact that the Cupertino, Calif.-based tech giant has fallen behind competitors at Amazon and Google in the development of voice-activated artificial intelligence.
In light of that complaint, a former Apple engineer came out last week and said Cook made the company “boring.”
All of the above may be true. But what is also a fact is that while Jobs was a dedicated liberal who supported Democratic candidates, he didn’t take his eye off continued growth and innovation. Cook, on the other hand, is also a leftist and has aggressively promoted such a culture within the policies and procedures of Apple – sometimes at the expense of the truth and ethics.
The obvious place to start is with the company’s mythical “green energy” agenda, which is in reality “greenwashing.” Back when Jobs was in charge, Apple did advocate for public policies that included cap-and-trade and an overall federal global warming policy. In 2009 it got on the good side of environmental pressure groups by ending its membership with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, due to disagreements over energy policies. Having Al Gore on the company’s board didn’t hurt.
But not long afterward, during the popular expansion of cloud computing services that depended on massive server farms to host tech company customers’ data, Apple ranked poorly in grades issued by Greenpeace and another environmentalist group, because of the “dirty” sources of the electricity that powered their facilities. Greenpeace said Apple’s heavy use of fossil fuels such as coal placed it behind fellow data-heavy companies such as Google, Facebook and Amazon.
Thus, as Apple built out its server facilities around the country, Cook felt the need to improve its image in the eyes of the activist enviros. After building a large data farm in western North Carolina, which would depend on megawatts of electricity delivered by Duke Energy from its immense (and cheap) coal, natural gas and nuclear generators, Apple needed to give the appearance of being “green.” So they decided they would construct a huge solar farm adjacent to the server facility, in the small town of Maiden, NC – but they had to clear-cut mega-acres of forest to do so! Even more comical (and hypocritical), as the trees came down, contractors burned up the timber, spewing tons more of the “evil” carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.
It didn’t end there. In a huge conflict of interest for board member Al Gore, Apple contracted also to build a fuel cell facility at the Maiden location to also generate electricity. Unfortunately the power is among the most costly you can produce, and depends on natural gas (although they claimed to use the more eco-friendly “biogas”). Gore was a senior partner in the venture capital firm that launched the company, Bloom Energy, that built Apple’s fuel cell project.
Between the expensive electricity from solar panels and the fuel cells, Apple claims its data centers are powered by “100 percent renewable energy” – but in reality has constructed an enormous “greenwashing” scheme. Rather than use the electricity they generate for use on their computer farms – which wouldn’t work because of their intermittency – Apple sells the power to Duke Energy by delivering it to their grid. Thus the company benefits from the inexpensive power generated by coal, natural gas and nuclear, and also pushes the expensive stuff on the grid. So the costly electricity gets blended in with the rest of the power and raises Duke Energy’s rates for the rest of its customers.
And on top of that – in mid-2015 Apple received approval to run 44 pollution-spewing diesel generators at the Maiden facility!
Not that that was enough deception. In May 2013 Cook hired former EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson after she left the Obama administration under an ethical cloud, after a scandal in which she was discovered to use an email alias to hide her correspondence from public records inquiries. During her public service she also conducted a highly political and destructive implementation of Obama’s policies to fight the coal industry, jack up automobile fuel mileage standards, and generally set onerous rules on industries without accountability to Congress or the public.
Amusingly, Cook – an alumnus of Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business – returned for a class reunion just a month earlier and answered questions about ethics and integrity in interviews. When asked what qualities he sought in effective collaborators for innovation, he answered, “You look for people that are not political, people that are not bureaucrats…” – in other words, the antithesis of Jackson. And when asked about what ethics means to him, he answered:
““When I think of ethics, I think of leaving things better than you found them. And to me that goes from everything from environmentally, to how you work with suppliers, with labor questions, to your carbon footprint of your products, to the things you choose to support, to the way you treat your employees. Your whole persona, to me, fits under that umbrella.”
Two years later Cook and Apple came up with another greenwashing scheme. In May 2015 the company announced it would joining with the Conservation Fund to “protect” a “working forest” in Brunswick Co., N.C., which is on the state’s southeastern coast. The forest was to be “harvested sustainably,” with the Conservation Fund selling the land to commercial owners who will be bound contractually to “preserve the forest and follow environmentally sound principles for cutting and replanting trees.”
The initiative was driven by Apple’s guilt over its heavy usage of paper and cardboard – thus the desire to invest in “sustainable” wood. But Apple wouldn’t buy paper made from the SE NC trees; Instead it would produce the equivalent of a significant portion of the wood fiber in Apple’s paper and packaging that it does use – something like indulgences.
And finally, in July 2015 Cook-led Apple joined 12 other major corporations at the White House to pledge fealty to President Obama’s carbon dioxide reduction agenda. The companies jointly announced they would collectively spend $140 billion on various initiatives to reduce carbon dioxide emissions and expand so-called “clean” energy.
Cook’s political agenda is not limited to the environment, however. Last year he joined dozens of other corporate CEOs to sign a letter circulated by the Human Rights Campaign that opposed North Carolina’s House Bill 2, which overturned a Charlotte City Council effort to allow self-identified “transgenders” to use whichever rest room they chose.
“House Bill 2…has overturned protections for LGBT people and sanctioned discrimination across North Carolina,” the letter from the CEOs said. “Put simply, HB 2 is not a bill that reflects the values of our companies, of our country, or even the overwhelming majority of North Carolinians. We are disappointed in your decision to sign this discriminatory legislation into law.”
Whether it’s phony scams to appear environmentally friendly, or pressuring states into policies to submit to a radical gay agenda, Tim Cook’s priorities have too often appeared to be politically oriented and outside the best interests of his company and its shareholders. It’s the kind of thing that lost the Obama/Clinton agenda the election, and it’s not wowing Apple’s customers like they used to.
Paul Chesser is an associate fellow for the National Legal and Policy Center.