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Apple CEO Cook to Climate Change Deniers: Sell the Stock

The executive tells a right-wing organization that not everything is done for shareholder return, including Apple's sustainability efforts.

Apple CEO Tim Cook is generating a lot of headlines for pushing back against a right-wing think tank that tried to use the company's annual shareholder meeting Feb. 28 as an avenue for furthering its own anti-climate–change agenda.

Representatives with the National Center for Public Policy Research (NCPPR) issued a statement to Cook and Apple before the meeting criticizing them for their efforts around green energy and sustainability and saying the company should ditch such initiatives and focus instead solely on shareholder return. The NCPPR also is an Apple shareholder.

After more than 97 percent of the shareholders voted down a politically motivated proposal by the group that would have required Apple to disclose costs associated with its eco-friendly programs and to detail the company's association with organizations that promote "the amorphous concept of environmental sustainability," NCPPR General Counsel Justin Danhof, during a Q&A session, continued to question the CEO about the sustainability programs and whether they contributed to Apple's bottom line. He also asked Cook to commit to only taking actions that helped the company make a profit.

According to reports from journalists at the meeting, Cook shot back sharply, rejecting Danhof's anti-climate–change position and the idea that everything a company did needed to add to the bottom line. A return on investment (ROI) is not the goal of every action taken by Apple, including those around the sustainability, he said.

"When we work on making our devices accessible by the blind, I don't consider the bloody ROI," Cook said, adding that the same idea is behind Apple's environmental policies. "We do a lot of things for reasons besides profit motive. We want to leave the world better than we found it."

Cook reportedly then told Danhof that if he or any other shareholder didn't believe in climate change or in Apple's sustainability efforts, they could leave.

"If you want me to do things only for ROI reasons, you should get out of this stock," he said.

In a statement after the meeting, Danhof continued to push his climate-change–denying views and rail at the CEO.

"Here's the bottom line: Apple is as obsessed with the theory of so-called climate change as its board member Al Gore is," he said. "The company's CEO fervently wants investors who care more about return on investments than reducing CO2 emissions to no longer invest in Apple. Maybe they should take him up on that advice."

The iPhone maker has increased its efforts around sustainability during Cook's tenure, pushing to get 100 percent of its power from renewable resources and removing so-called "conflict minerals" from war-torn Democratic Republic of Congo out of its supply chain.