Sustainability has become both a strategic and operational objective for manufacturers globally. Sustainable business practices are not only good for the environment, they can increase company viability in the long term through growth, global competitiveness and customer satisfaction. We’ll take a look back at the original sustainability advocates who, over the years, have become champions in their own right.
Although Tim Cook is best known as the Chief Executive Officer of Apple, he also stands high in the ranks of people dedicated to environmental preservation and the drive to manufacturing sustainability.
Who is Tim Cook?
Timothy Donald Cook was born on November 1, 1960 in Mobile, Alabama. His parents were working class people. He graduated from Auburn University of Alabama in 1982 with a bachelor’s degree in industrial engineering and followed that up with an MBA from Duke University. His early career encompassed roles such as director of North American Fulfillment for IBM, COO at Intelligent Electronics, and VP of Corporate materials at Compaq Computer.
Cook joined Apple in 1998. He has been quoted as saying he knew he would leave Compaq and join Apple within five minutes of meeting Steve Jobs. “My intuition already knew that joining Apple was a once in a lifetime opportunity to work for the creative genius and to be on the executive team that could resurrect a great American company,” he said during a commencement speech he gave at Auburn University in 2010.
Contributions to Manufacturing Sustainability
Shortly after joining Apple, Cook streamlined Apple’s supply chain. The company began outsourcing manufacturing, reduced on-hand inventory from months to days and directed investments into critical technologies like flash memory, helping to cut costs and improve profitability, fueling Apple’s turnaround and setting it on a renewed growth path.
In 2013, Cook hired Lisa Jackson, former head of the EPA, as vice president, Environment, Policy and Social Initiatives, to assist in developing and leading Apple’s renewable energy activities. In 2014, Cook surprised the financial world by telling shareholders to “get out of the stock” if they didn’t believe in the need for sustainability and the acceleration of climate change.
Under Cook’s leadership, Apple has pioneered product recycling programs through trade-ins and buybacks and has moved to using recycled materials in its products and packaging. The company has also contributed millions to support national parks.
Apple claims its operations are 100 percent powered by renewable energy and that its products would soon be built with recycled materials. This might seem unachievable to some companies, but consumer preferences have become driving factors behind much of the competition in the consumer electronics industry. While we may be years away from industry-wide carbon neutrality, Cook’s commitment to being carbon neutral by 2030 is a step in the right direction, and it certainly sets the bar for other companies in the space.
Career Awards and Accomplishments
Tim Cook has received many awards and honors in his lifetime. Known for his push for inclusion and diversity in business, education and really, all aspects of life, Tim Cook received the Ripple of Change Award in 2015, the Human Rights Campaign’s Visibility Award, and in 2018, the Courage Against Hate Award from the Anti-Defamation League.
Cook is also a dedicated supporter of education, and he has received numerous awards from the world of academia. He was inducted into the Alabama Academy of Honor in 2015 and received an Honorary Doctor of Science from the University of Glasgow in Scotland in 2017.
Cook is a highly acclaimed businessperson as well. In 2014, Financial Times named him Person of the Year, and in 2015, Fortune Magazine named him the World’s Greatest Leader.
A True Champion of Sustainability
Tim Cook is an admirable person on many fronts, and he works hard to support the causes he believes in. One of those causes is the need to manage climate change and drive toward business sustainability. And when it comes to sustainability, Cook has pushed Apple to a lead position without adversely affecting profitability or product innovation. There can be no question that Cook is a champion in the war for sustainability.