After receiving an honorary doctorate at the University of Glasgow recently, Apple chief executive Tim Cook took questions from the capacity crowd. The first student had two for the leader of the world’s most profitable company. He wondered, to laughter, whether he could have a job. And then he asked about Apple’s “next big thing” — not just as far as products, but “in terms of activism.”
Cook said he doesn’t view himself or Apple as an “activist,” casting the company’s battles over privacy rights or its opposition to President Trump’s immigration order in moral terms about right and wrong. Just before that he had invoked Martin Luther King Jr.’s famous quotation about the problem with “the appalling silence of the good people.”
Yet more and more, consumers and employees are like that student in Scotland, expecting the companies they buy from or work for to take a stand on social issues. And increasingly, CEOs are responding.