Steve Jobs enforced several tenets that differentiated Apple from other technology companies. For example, when he returned to the company in 1997, one of his orders was to halt all of their ongoing and future corporate social responsibility or charity programs.
Steve Jobs and the Pronounced CSR Program of Apple
However, upon his return, Jobs wanted to direct their business strategy toward using all of their resources to make the company profitable. He strongly adhered to the economic model or shareholder theory of corporate social responsibility, thus arguing that the responsibility of Apple is to generate revenue and make profits.
There is some point to his position. Researchers Y. Zheng and H. Lee reviewed analyses made on about 1000 manufacturing companies in the United States from 2001 to 2012. Results showed that increasing CSR activities related to the environment, community, and governance significantly lowered the innovation output of these companies.
Several researchers and business executives agree that there are drawbacks to deploying a CSR program. Some of these disadvantages are unique to the situation of a particular company. In the case of Apple, when Jobs returned to the company he founded, intended to focus on building competitive advantages aimed at expanding and improving their product portfolio.
Critics were unforgiving. A 2006 Wired article wrote that Jobs was not among the list of executives who donated USD 5 million or more for a charitable cause. His seeming indifference toward cancer research was also criticized. Change.org also mentioned in 2010 that it was high time that the chief executive becomes a magnanimous philanthropist.
Dan Pallotta of Harvard Business Review wrote in his defense. He explained that if the former executive focused on philanthropic works, his company would not be able to introduce innovative products and services. These include, among others, others the iPhone and iPad, which changed the landscape of the consumer electronics industry, as well the iPod and iTunes, which disrupted the music industry and promoted the popularity of digital music.
Current Corporate Social Responsibility Program of Apple
Jobs still did philanthropic works to include supporting HIV/AIDS research and promoting ethics and fair labor practices across his organization and within its network of outsourced business partners. Of course, aside from this, his commendable and successful stretch as the principal decision-maker at Apple has brought forth economic value.
Remember that economic responsibility is one of the four main social responsibilities of a business. The Cupertino-based company employs more than thirty thousand individuals, support a global chain of businesses involved in the consumer electronics industry, and provide revenues stream through corporate and other forms of taxes.
Furthermore, with its reputation grounded firmly in the industry, some facets of the corporate social responsibility program of Apple have achieved success while others have become doable. Nevertheless, when Tim Cook became the chief executive in 2011, the company had a strong financial position to implement programs or activities related to corporate social responsibility.
Below are the notable activities within the CSR program of Apple:
1. Product Red Involvement
Apple is not excessively vocal about its charitable involvements. However, most of its loyal customers and several industry observers would be familiar with its participation in the Product Red global initiative. Founded in 2006 by Bono, the frontman of the Irish rock band U2, this initiative licenses the “Product Red” brand to companies to support the “Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria” program.
Proceeds of sales from branded products would go to the global fund. For its part, Apple has been a major participant since 2006. A variant of the 2nd generation iPod Nano was the first Red-branded product it released in 2006. The company has since launched Red-branded variants of its Mac computers, the iPhone, and accessories and wearables such as the Apple Watch.
Bono noted that the company is the largest contributor to the global fund for addressing AIDS, malaria, and tuberculosis in underdeveloped and developing countries. According to the 2011 Harvard Business Review article by D. Pallotta, the company donated tens of millions of dollars to support the specific programs and activities of the fund.
The official Product Red page of the company mentioned that sales from its Red-branded products had generated almost USD 250 million in donations. Since the 2019 coronavirus pandemic, parts of the proceeds have also been channeled toward the COVID-19 response of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria.
2.Business and Education Discounts
Apple also has a sales promotion program for business organizations and students. For example, businesses that spend USD 5000 are eligible for a 5 percent discount. The program is three-tiered. A minimum purchase of USD 35,000 would entitle a customer to an 8 percent discount while a minimum purchase of USD 200,000 would provide as much as 8 percent.
The company also has an exclusive education pricing for newly enrolled college students and their parents, as well as faculty members, administrative staff and personnel, and homeschool teachers of all grade levels. Discounted products are available on the official company website or in authorized third-party retail stores and distributors.
Some of the items offered eligible for discounts include the MacBook Pro and MacBook Air, several Mac line of desktop computers, different variants of the iPad tablet devices, as well as accessories and selected productivity and entertainment applications.
3. Specific Environmental Initiatives
As part of its contribution to conserving and protecting the environment, as well as to address issues concerning the ongoing climate emergency, part of the corporate social responsibility program of Apple is a specific environmental strategy and sustainability initiatives aimed at minimizing the environmental impacts of its business operation.
The company maintains a global recycling program that includes running several facilities that accept old and discarded Apple products as part of its after-sales services, as well as plants for recovering and processing recyclable materials. In addition, through a redesigned manufacturing process, some of its products have improved reparability and recyclability.
Several offices, data centers, and stores also run on 100 percent renewable energy using solar and wind power. Note that the company has a pronounced commitment to become carbon-neutral by 2030. Apple has also reduced or eliminated the use of specific materials to include mercury, beryllium, brominated flame retardants, and polyvinyl chloride.
Through its global recycling program that employs upcycling, as well as the use of renewable energy, the company aims to fully adopt a circular economic model in its entire value chain, thus equipping it with a capacity to maximize the use of finite resources while minimizing wastes.
4. Ethics and Compliance Adherence
Apple has faced several controversies involving the poor working conditions at some of its outsourced facilities. To respond to the public clamor, the company has required its outsourced business partners to follow a set of guidelines for ensuring that the rights of workers are protected and promoted. It also does regular audits to make sure that its suppliers are compliant.
Employees are also mandated to read and understand its internal Business Conduct Policy, which is aimed at promoting professional integrity, respect among coworkers and other stakeholders, confidentiality of private data and information, and compliance to internal and legal standards. These employees are also required to complete a Business Conduct training each year.
To promote ethics and compliance, Apple also does internal and third-party audits to assess if its programs and initiatives are effective and relevant. Under the leadership of its Chief Compliance Office, the company continues to research on trends and developments to improve further its policies and ensure that its overall business conduct reflects the needs of its stakeholders.
FURTHER READINGS AND REFERENCES
- 2019. “Apple Expands it Global Recycling Program” Apple. Available online
- Pallotta, D. 2011. “Steve Jobs, World’s Greatest Philanthropist.” Harvard Business Review. Available online
- Zheng, Y. and Lee, H. 2018. “Why Steve Jobs Avoided CSR: The Impact of CSR on Innovation.” Academy of Management Proceedings. 2018: 12679. DOI: 5465/ambpp.2018.12679abstract