In March 2014, while defending his company's investments in renewable energy, Apple CEO Tim Cook told shareholders, “If you want me to do things only for [return on investment] reasons you should get out of this stock."
Cook was responding to criticism from the right wing National Center for Public Policy Research (NCPPR) that by investing in measures without a clear return on investment (ROI) he was undermining the financial interest of Apple's shareholders.
“When we work on making our devices accessible by the blind, I don’t consider the bloody ROI [either],” Cook added, explaining that immediate profitability is not the only factor in Apple's corporate strategy.
Image credit: Mark Mathosian / Flickr
By taking this stand, Tim Cook is one of the few CEOs of a major American company to refute the fallacious assumption that publicly traded corporations have a "fiduciary responsibility" to consider only profits when setting corporate strategy.
This mistaken understanding has often stood in the way of corporations acting on non-financial imperatives such as environmental and social concerns. Cook's statement could embolden other senior executive to take a more expansive and responsible view of their scope of action.