Tim Cook's Apple comes into its own

Under Tim Cook, Apple has managed to align financial incentives with social responsibility

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Tim Cook's Apple comes into its own Apple is saying that technology firms can, and should, be more responsible with their businesses
By  Tom Paye Published  March 10, 2015

As I watched the live stream of last night's big Apple event, I was reminded of this post by famed Apple watcher John Gruber, titled Only Apple. In it, he examines statements made by CEO Tim Cook claiming that only Apple can deliver seamless experiences for its users, across all of its devices. The conclusion? There's some truth to Cook's statements - Gruber's points are, as always, very compelling.

But I'd like to amend the ‘Only Apple' part - on the back of what we saw last night, I'd contend that it is only Tim Cook's Apple that is capable of delivering this new wave of technological innovations. But more important, only Tim Cook's Apple is capable of doing so in a socially responsible way.

Take the second topic of the keynote, following on from an irrelevant-to-the-Middle-East announcement over a deal with US TV channel HBO. Cook dove into the success that Apple has seen with the iPhone - over 700m units have now been sold, and customer satisfaction ratings for the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus stand at 99%. "These numbers are unheard of," Cook proclaimed, and he wasn't wrong.

But Cook was at pains to show that Apple is not simply content with riding the wave of success that has led it to become the most valuable company in the world. He wanted to show us what you can do with this huge number of users to make the world a better place.

Enter ResearchKit, a software development kit aimed at medical researchers. The idea is that researchers can create apps, which can be downloaded by users wishing to participate in programmes. One example given was how an American university had created an app for Parkinson's sufferers - it contains a tapping test by using the screen, or else a vocal cord test conducted by simply ‘Ahh-ing" into the device's microphone. It's simple, but it has boosted the amount of data available to researchers, allowing them to glean new insight into the disease, paving the way for better treatment.

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563 days ago
Alan J

While I agree it's good that Apple is showing some leadership in CSR I think you're being somewhat Hagiographic in claiming that they're the only company that can do it. In fact, I'd suggest that these are just the beginning stages in a very positive future for Apple and that there are many companies to look to for advanced leadership in CSR, as I'm sure Tim Cook knows.

Most people think Coke is a corporate monster but they've spent the last 2 decades refining their global supply chains around principles of sustainability. Many emerging global companies use their supply models as a start-up template. And they also pour profits back in to waterway stewardship around the world.

If you want to compare tech giants, then Google. Putting aside the obvious differences they've made by showing leadership in workforce management. They have been pumping money in to research grants for years in tech and non-tech areas, any area of innovation, even animal husbandry.

I can't even begin to count the amount of stuff that Gates &
Microsoft have their hands in, but I need only mention one item - malaria cure, it's still the largest killer in the world.

Lets look at another traditional dirty industry, shoes. Notorious for outsourcing labor to sweatshops and also for toxic chemicals. Toxicity & children, not a nice combo. Adidas has made huge strides in certifying 90% of its tanneries globally against these practices.

Apple still has some way to go in improving it's labor conditions, it's over complicated supply chain, and it's overuse of heavy metals. They are not unique as their marketing bumph implies, in fact they're just beginning. Yes, I'm thrilled that Apple has joined these other world leaders and I look forward to more.

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