Until Steve Jobs’ death in late 2011, Apple had always employed a policy of secrecy when it came to what information, about the company, they released into the outside world. This policy was pioneered by Jobs, and was a cornerstone of company policy during his time as CEO. Jobs thought that if they kept all of the details of their business model successfully hidden, then they could continue to stay ahead of the competition. The problem is that we live in the 21st century and that is not how stakeholders like to see businesses run. In a time that has seen the downfall of major corporate powerhouses like Enron and Lehman Brothers, the public has grown weary of what a businesses’ true intent actually is.
While I understand the theory behind Jobs’ policy, and agree that keeping R&D under a veil of secrecy is important, I still believe that businesses should be required to release statistical information about their business practices. We need a way to keep these companies honest and progressive. While gains are definitely being made on that front in terms of enacting more legislation, we have not seen a huge change in the situation within the past 10 years. So, while I agree that Jobs was probably the most innovative person of his time, he did not do much to show the public that Apple was a socially responsible.
So where is the company today? Well for one thing they have a brand new CEO, Tim Cook. Tim Cook replaced Jobs after Jobs passed away from pancreatic cancer in late 2011. Most Apple followers were terrified what this would mean for the company’s future, seeing as it was Jobs’ innovative vision that had brought the company so much success.
So what about this Tim Cook, what is he doing for Apple? Since Cook took the position as CEO he has already started a renovation of the company’s image. Cook, having worked as Apple’s COO before becoming CEO, was well aware of the company’s previous policy of secrecy and agreed the company needed an image makeover.
Cook has began this process by reviewing the way that the company treats its employees. Cook realized that they needed to be able to attract the best young minds in their fields in order to remain competitive and innovative. An attractive working environment will not only incentivize employees to want work for the company, but it also helps retain employees, which promotes productivity. This effort to address and take steps to make Apple a better place to work shows that Apple cares about their employees and is taking efforts to improve this relationship.
Another stakeholder Cook has reached out would be the community at large. Under Jobs’ reign Apple “didn’t do charity”. Jobs believed that, that money would be better spent on R&D. Well guess what? The public cares are community service, and admires corporations that work with charities. Cook saw this weakness as an opportunity to improve and recently announced that they will now be participating in a charity-matching program. What this means is that Apple will now match, dollar for dollar, employee donations of up to $10,000 per year. For a company that “didn’t do charity”, this seems like a pretty positive step in the right direction.
Cook has also addressed the issues with their suppliers overseas. Cook was actually the individual that was sent over to China to inspect their supplier’s factories when the controversy arose. Cook was not pleased with what he saw and hired a nonprofit auditing organization, the Fair Labor Association, to conduct regular audits of the company’s supplier’s factories. However, according to recent reports it does not appear that too much has changed on this front. There are still numerous violations found during every single audit. While, I understand that Apple does not have much authority over these matters because they do not directly control these factories, they do have a certain amount of influence over the people that do. In the future, Apple needs to take a stronger stance against supplier violations. They need to make it clear to these companies that inhuman behavior is unacceptable.
Overall, Apple appears to be moving in a positive direction under new CEO, Tim Cook, but there is still room for improvement. Cook definitely needs to do more to make sure that their Code of Ethics are actually being enforced in supplier factories, and perhaps even enforce harsher punishments for violators. I am usually not an advocate of using “punishment” as a solution, but because what these companies are doing is unethical and inhumane they need to realize that there are consequences for treating their employees poorly.