Where do you go when you’re on top of the world? If you’re Apple, you follow your conscience and excel on a select few social issues to set an inspiring example for multinational giants everywhere. Under Tim Cook’s leadership, the 200 billion dollar behemoth is not only focusing on clean air and water, which is adversely affected by the company’s manufacturing, but also leading progressive anti-discrimination and pro-LGBTQ efforts within and without the organization.
This marks a shift towards purpose for the brand, which under Cook’s predecessor, the mythic Steve Jobs, never missed an opportunity to celebrate the rebellious, creative spirit in everyone. It was (and is) a brilliant strategy and Apple’s results speak for themselves. But just as Steve Jobs’ confrontational philosophy was progressive in a world of staid IBM corporatism, Apple is now the grown-up corporate giant in the room and to remain progressive, it must not only move with the times, but also define them by redefining how it celebrates not only individuals, but humanity as a whole. Fortunately, putting people first is one of the values that’s helped make Apple so successful, and they’re doing it in ways that position the brand for long-term enlightened leadership.
While Apple has not been without its share of controversy when it comes to its suppliers, the company has nonetheless outlined a clearly defined set of standards for its contractors that leave no room for any type of discrimination or exploitation. These standards also give the brand the ability to terminate relationships based on violation of those ideals. This commitment to social justice has also spurred the brand to speak out against discriminatory practices in North Carolina where Apple has a large data center, as well as five of its stores in addition to other infrastructure. Though they can’t terminate their relationship with a state quite so easy, they’re nonetheless not shy about clearly communicating their values.
Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO, has also been unapologetic about communicating this new purpose-driven approach by penning articles on inclusivity for the Wall Street Journal, as well as lending his name for an anti-discrimination bill in his home state of Alabama. Cook’s commitment to social justice, and willingness to be a public face for it, continues the tradition of bold leadership exemplified by Jobs. As Cook wrote in his Journal piece, “I became aware of a fundamental truth: People are much more willing to give of themselves when they feel that their selves are being fully recognized and embraced. As we see it, embracing people’s individuality is a matter of basic human dignity and civil rights. It also turns out to be great for the creativity that drives our business.”
From an internal perspective, Apple’s authentic, inclusive and values-based leadership will ensure that they’re not only able to attract and retain the best talent to spur the best innovation for years to come, but that they’ll also attract and retain more customers with an unrivaled combination of incredible products and admirable ideals. As Tim Cook recently told Wired, “I do it because I really believe it. Because I deeply believe. My belief is that companies should have values like people do. This company has values.” It’s a powerful example that no matter how big or successful your brand may be, there’s always a way to push it forward by putting people and purpose first.
Image via Flickr courtesy of user Sergey Galyonkin at https://flic.kr/p/bxWWTt