Tim Cook, chief executive officer of Apple, is a firm believer that corporations should step in where government fears to tread and push for solving social problems.
At the Boxworks conference in San Francisco, Cook said : “I think business has a very important responsibility to society. And that responsibility has grown markedly in the last couple of decades or so, as government has found it more difficult to move forward or get as much done that would please the people.”
One issue important to Cook has been the renewable energy used by the US arm of Apple’s operations.
Another is the advocacy Cook has shown toward the LGBT community; especially after coming out as a gay man last year. Cook has volleyed for approval of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) in order to end discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
Cook said: “We’re focused on equality. And equality is one of those unusual things. Equality is free. There’s no cost to it, and so it’s not — this week there’s a big budget crisis again and everybody’s yelling at each other about money — but to give people a basic level of human rights and dignity is free. And yet, over 200 years after we said ‘all men are created equal,’ it’s still not the case today.”
However, Apple’s focus on equality is not for all.
For example, in 2014 it was uncovered that their Chinese factories operate routinely under violations of human rights laws, including:
• Using child labor
• Factory employees working for 12 hours or longer
• Not giving employees a day of in 18 days of consecutive work
• Mandatory overtime
• Unpaid for attending work-related meetings
• Forcing 12 workers to share one dormitory room
When it comes to sourcing minerals, Apple was caught employing children to dig tin ore by hand, while miners were forced to work in unstable mines that could collapse at any moment.
Seventy percent of the tin that Apple uses is supplied from small-scale mines where children work alongside their parents under horrendous conditions where the threat of dying in a landslide is very real.
But despite these abuses of human rights, the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) will honor Cook next October as a herald of civil rights for the LGBT community – ignoring the use of Chinese workers in sweatshops.
Chad Griffin, president of the HRC said Cook “is a visionary” who has “saved lives” by speaking out on LGBT issues.