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A “Green” Shareholder's Meeting At Apple. Inc.

Yesterday, at Apple Computer's annual shareholder's meeting, a conservative investor commented that the “glaciers were not melting, climate change was not real, and Board Member Al Gore had become a laughingstock, ” which turned a rather ordinary shareholder's meeting into a session that focused an unusually large amount of time on “green” issues!

The comments prompted a quick reply from a second shareholder in support of Mr. Gore position on climate change, and Apple, Inc.'s environmental performance went on to oddly take over more than a third of the meeting. While its certainly not unheard of for companies to discuss these issues at corporate shareholder events, it is not a topic that often dominates, and shunts aside, other financial issues. Most of the time, “environmentalists” are given their five minutes at the podium; whatever “green” proposal is on the table is quickly voted on and the meeting moves on.

Not with Apple's meeting yesterday. There were two shareholder proposals to be voted on, one calling for the company to set greenhouse gas reduction goals and do a better job of environmental and corporate responsibility reporting in general. A second proposal would require the company to establish a permanent committee on sustainability.

CEO Steve Jobs commented, "… we don't trumpet" all the good things we do, we just try to do the right thing,” which prompted a debate about the value of some of the product environmental reports posted on Apple's website. The company says the reports "show the complete environmental footprint of every new Apple product so you can see how each one affects the planet." The validity and context of Apple's information was questioned at length by several investors, who pointed out that, without providing the source data and methods used to generate the reports, it's very difficult to fairly evaluate whether Apple is acting aggressively to evaluate and control carbon emissions,or to “greenwash” the issue to make itself look attractive to the environmentally conscious.

During the discussion, Mr. Jobs said that the company “…  is a clear leader in areas like removing toxic chemicals from products and recycling ….” He is right, but the company hasn't always been responsive to environmental issues without being forced to do so. Not very long ago, Apple found itself at odds publicly with Greenpeace over environmental policy. While the  problems associated with achieving environmental sustainability remain daunting, its good to see investors keeping Apple's feet to the fire.
Published Feb 26 2010, 04:25 AM by moneycoach
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