Apple's Tim Cook encourages corporate action to improve human rights

Tim Cook

Tim Cook has told a conference of business executives that American corporations have a responsibility to help improve equality, the environment and public education because of a lack of government progress in the past few decades.

Speaking at the BoxWorks conference in San Francisco on Tuesday, Cook insisted his position was not partisan but that equality should not still be an issue in 2015.

“To give people a basic level of dignity and human rights over 200 years after we said all men are created equal … this is something we’re going to continue to evangelise about because it’s shocking to me that in 2015 we are even having to discuss this subject. There’s no cost to equality. It’s free,” said Cook.

“Business has an important responsibility to society and that has grown markedly in the last couple of decades as government has found it more difficult to move forward and get as much done. That is not making a partisan statement … but I’m a product of public education and too many kids in public schools that aren’t good enough. They’re in essence born with a built-in headwind and things aren’t equal.”

Research published in June by the bipartisan advocacy group First Focus found that the US government has consistently decreased spending on education, falling from 1.27% of overall spending in 2011 to just over 1% in 2015. Despite limited increases in some areas, the organisation found that overall education spending had been reduced by 19.8% over those four years.

Cook went on to say that climate change needs to be taken seriously. He said Apple’s data centres run on 100% renewable energy and that almost 90% of its supply chain now uses renewable energy too. “In some areas I don’t want anyone to copy us but in this one, I want everybody to copy us.”

Cook was talking to Aaron Levie, co-founder and CEO of Box, which provides cloud storage for businesses. Cook heavily pushed Apple’s strategy of expanding their products to businesses, saying Apple, which currently has a market capitalisation of $631bn, needed partnerships with IBM, Cisco and Box to diversify into specialist business markets, such as financial services.

He said there hadn’t been enough innovation in mobile services for business, with most limited to email and browsing, and took the opportunity to take a swipe at Google, Apple’s most ferocious competitor. “We don’t believe in having one operating system for desktop and mobile – we think it subtracts from both and you don’t get the best experience,” he said referencing Android, Google’s ubiquitous operating system.

When talking about partnering with Microsoft, a traditional rival, to introduce its Office software into iOS devices, Cook changed tack. Microsoft made a surprise appearance at an Apple event earlier this month, demonstrating their Office apps for iOS devices. “I’m not a believer in holding grudges – life is short, and you’re going to die soon. You want to have as many friends as you can have and if you can serve someone else better by partnering then you should do it.”

Levie, wearing bright blue socks with white clouds combined with blue and orange sneakers, asked where Apple could go from here. “Maybe an airplane? Are you building a plane?”

Cook – in black socks and black brogues – said: “No. There’s no iPlane. Maybe one needs to exist. But that’s not something we’re even thinking about.”

Speaking to a crowd of sympathetic tech industry executives, Cook simultaneously played down Apple’s success while demonstrating the company’s dominance, asking the audience how many of them used an iPhone (several hundred) and how many used a Blackberry (two).

“Our goal was never to be the biggest – we’ve never worried about selling the most. We just always wanted to be the best. We have always believed deeply that if we made the best, some people would want to buy it, and they would use it, and we would have a reasonable business. That strategy has worked for Apple since Steve [Jobs, former CEO] came back in ’97, and we’re still doing that.”

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article was written by Jemima Kiss in San Francisco, for theguardian.com on Tuesday 29th September 2015 21.30 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010