(UPDATED) Apple CEO Tim Cook’s talk with Michael Bloomberg: COMPLETE Transcript
As explained in more depth here, Apple CEO Tim Cook spoke with Michael Bloomberg in a session moderated by Megan Murphy at the Bloomberg Global Business Forum in New York City on September 20, 2017. With thanks to Bloomberg Global Business Forum, I’ve been able to source the complete transcript, which I thought some Apple Watchers may want to read, verbatim.
ANNOUNCER: Please welcome our panelists, CEO of Apple Tim Cook, Michael Bloomberg, and our moderator, editor of Bloomberg Business Week, Megan Murphy.
MURPHY: Yes, exactly. Well, thank you so much in the round – the first panel in the round. I…
BLOOMBERG: Everybody tells me this works, I’m never sure why.
MURPHY: I’m not sure either.
BLOOMBERG: We’re all dissing (ph) 1/3 of the people. We’re getting kind of (ph)…
MURPHY: We’re actually wondering if we’re sitting in the right seats. We’re hoping we got it right. I’m thrilled and delighted to be here with you both. And we’re going to shift tack a little bit on this panel. We’re going to talk about something hugely important to all of us in this room. We want to talk about engagement between the private sector and the business sector – and the public sector.
But we also want to talk about responsibility; social responsibility, moral responsibility between business and the public sector as well. We’ve already talked about it this morning, about we face a moment. We have new political fissures, we have new economic fissures, we have some, unfortunately, that’s resurfaced. And the private sector has had to take on more of a role not just in the U.S. but across the world.
Tim, I’m going to start with you. You’ve made a very conscious effort to move Apple to step into this void. We see governments not as effective, not as fast. How are you positioning? And where do you see Apple’s role in the environment we face now and your personal responsibility as chief executive of a company that touches so many people’s lives around the world?
COOK: Yeah, thanks, Megan. Mike, I just want to say thank you for getting us all together.
BLOOMBERG: Happy to.
COOK: This is a very important…
BLOOMBERG: And thank you for coming.
BLOOMBERG: Everybody’s going to buy an X.
COOK: Thank you all in advance…
MURPHY: I just got one backstage.
COOK: My view has always been that people should have values. Companies are nothing more than a collection of people. And so by extension, all companies should have values. And so as a CEO, I think one of your primary responsibilities is to decide what the values of your company is and lead accordingly. The other thing I think is the thing that President Kennedy used to say, originally from the Bible actually, is much is given, much is expected.
And Apple had success, some success. And so we feel a – a responsibility to give back; to help in some of society’s greatest problems. And so for us, we try to look deeply at what issues is government working on? What issues are key in society? And we think about the skills we have. There’s some issues that we have no skills on. We’re not going to be able to help there realistically.
But there’s some that we can really either amplify government efforts, working hand in hand, or we can pretty much do ourselves. And, you know, Apple has always been, at the core, about changing the world. And arguably, you can’t change the world if you’re ignoring the world. And so that’s kind of the way that we look at it. As a CEO, not only today but in the past as well, I think that silence is the ultimate consent.
If you see something going on that’s not right, the most powerful form of consent is to say nothing. And I think that that’s not acceptable to your company, to the team that works so hard for your company, for your customers or for your country, or for each country that you happen to be operating in. And so that’s kind of the way I see it, and I have to say, I am more optimistic today than I have ever been.
And I mean that sincerely. And that’s despite sometimes not feeling like that, but overall, I think we’re – we have an incredible opportunity because never before have I seen the ability, all across the world, to work together on some of these common issues.
MURPHY: Let’s talk about one of those common issues, Mike; climate change. We talk about putting together as a model of the kind of engagement of private sector. After the Trump administration announced its intentions to withdraw, you’ve been at the forefront with mayors, with governors. But with, also, dozens of companies across every sector to make their own commitments and their own pledges to maintain or exceed those standards.
But it is not easy and there’ll be many issues, whereas there is not the level of agreement that there is on climate. How do you see that as a model? And take us behind that process on achieving that kind of coalition at that scale for problems that are going to be more difficult trade infrastructure
BLOOMBERG: Well, I agree with Tim, companies are a collection of people and you have a responsibility to do something for the world that those people come from and live in. Our employees care what the company’s values are when I support a cause or don’t support a cause; I hear it from our employees. I hear it from our customers and I hear it from my family, we — none of us operate in a vacuum, but we have to let ourselves go out there and take a risk and say what we really believe. And people want you to be genuine.
The answer, you’re right, not everybody’s go to agree on everything, but I’ve always thought if they believe — if the person believes your honest and genuine and trying, they will forgive the fact that they don’t agree with you, they will respect you more and I think that was the secret to three elections that we won. I didn’t have a lot in common with everybody in New York City, it’s a very diverse thing after all I was wealthy and running as a Republican the first few times in a city doesn’t have any Republicans, but we won nevertheless because people thought that I really was trying and the people that I put together.
I think when you talk about climate change, it’s good for your business number one, you’re in recruiting, it’s a very big thing. The two things that I keep telling our recruiters to stress, we’re very good on climate change and all the profits of Bloomberg go to Bloomberg philanthropies. So go to work for Apple you know you’re going to work for a bunch of rich stockholders; go to work for Bloomberg and you’re changing the world.
COOK: Wait a minute, wait a minute.
BLOOMBERG: Wait a minute. But the other thing is seriously, I think we all have an obligation — I’ve always thought our company has an obligation to give back in every city where we do business. We are guests in cities and countries around the world. We owe them something for the privilege of being able to set up shop and have — make money and do what we want to do and so in every — we have 170 different locations around the world. We try to have our employees go out, whether it’s painting a school, mentoring a kid or we support charities or send monies to people in places where there’s a natural disaster. Like I was down in the St. John and St. Thomas two weeks ago. We don’t live in a vacuum. And what I’ve always respected about Tim is he has his values and he goes out there and he just doesn’t sit around and say profit is the only thing.
I happen to think it’s also very good for business, that if you do the right thing, it will help the bottom line. But the first thing is to do the right thing because it’s the right thing, and because you have to look in the mirror, even if nobody likes you whatsoever. Last thing you see before you go to bed is yourself, and you’ve got to be proud of that.
MURPHY: Tim, let’s pick on that and give you a little bit of a right of reply. I’m doing this kind of flashback to 2016.
Let’s talk about immigration, an issue in America, an issue around the world right now. You have been very public, both on the necessity to ease restrictions on highly skilled workers into the U.S., also for younger people who came here as children, known as Dreamers, in America, under what we call DACA here in America. You tweeted I stand with when it was indicated that we may see a retrenchment on that policy, you tweeted, “I stand with the 250 Dreamers who work for Apple. They deserve our respect as equals and a solution rooted in American values.”
Tell us and tell people in this room, these are your employees, you’ve also called them your neighbors, people we work with every day — how are you engaging with the administration on this issue right now?
COOK: Well, we’re pushing extremely hard on this. This is — I think it’s the biggest issue of our time currently, among all these big issues because this goes to the values of being American. This is are we human, are we acting within a track of morality. Right?
These people, if you haven’t met them, at Apple we have many that came to the U.S. when they were two years old. They didn’t exactly make a decision to come. They came here, they only know our country. This is their home. They love America deeply. When you talk to them, I wish everyone in America loved America this much.
They have jobs, they pay taxes, they’re pillars of their communities. They’re incredible people. And so to me, it would be like someone coming to Mike and saying oh, Mike, I just found out you aren’t really a citizen here. You need to leave. This is unacceptable. This is not who we are as a country.
And so I am personally shocked that there’s even a discussion of this. This is one of those things where it is so clear. And it’s not a political thing. Or at least I don’t see it like that at all. This is about basic human dignity and respect. It’s just — it is that simple and straightforward.
On the broader subject of immigration, if I were a country leader right now, my goal would be to monopolize the world’s talent. I’d want every smart person coming to my country. Because smart people create jobs and jobs is the ultimate things that create a great environment in a country.
A land of opportunity, a land where everybody can do well if you work hard. These are the things that drive people. It gives people sense of purpose. And so I’d have a very aggressive plan not just to let a few people in, I would be recruiting. And so I think — I was in — I went to Ellis Island on Sunday because I wanted to feel myself what it was like to come to the country.
And if you’ve ever sat in the Great Hall and one of the benches that were there in the early 1900’s, you can feel the people in that room. And you can kind of feel both the anxiety and the hope. And I think — that is where we all started from. Maybe not Ellis Island, maybe it was Virginia, like my family. But we all started somewhere.
We are all descendants of immigrants in the United States. BLOOMBERG: And one of the fascinating things about DACA, when you mention that, these young people. If somebody — a woman carried her newborn baby in her arms, walked into a bank, pulled out a gun and held up the bank, I don’t think we’d prosecute the infant. I mean, and that really is exactly the same thing.
What on earth are we thinking about? These people, they may be here illegally but they didn’t commit a crime. Also, we desperately need them.
BLOOMBERG: What is worrisome to me is — I don’t know if I’ve (ph) had this experience so far, but we have had — and I don’t want to overstate it, but a handful of people in the United States and a handful of people that were in London, where we have 4,000-odd people, say I would like to transfer — stay in Bloomberg but transferred to an office in another country, we’re not liked here. That unfortunately is what happens with this crazy rhetoric against immigrants.
Their — words have consequences, and you don’t see them immediately, but they really are going to hurt us. You just — we need a constant source of new blood coming into this country. And if they can’t come here, they will go someplace else that is more welcoming.
They will create the next industries over there, the culture over there, and we’re never gonna catch up if that’s the case. I couldn’t agree more, I’m as optimistic as I’ve ever been. But the challenges to this country are greater than they’ve ever been.
MURPHY: But this is where I want to pick up on. The challenges are greater, I know you feel both as equally passionately about these issues. But how are you deciding right now where to prioritize your time, your effort, the philanthropic money?
Whether it’s trade, whether it’s immigration, whether it’s climate. It does feel like we’re in — as everyone has said this morning, a true moment. And I think it would be helpful to hear about what you’re doing in response to …
COOK: Well the private sector can do things, and the — some things the government can’t do, and the government can’t do some things the private sector does. I went down to St. Johns and St. Thomas the other day. One of our partners has a house down there.
He called me and said it’s a disaster, they need medicine, they don’t have supplies, that whole sort of thing, no electricity, can you do something? And so we put some of our team that had worked with us on Hurricane Sandy on the plane.
FEMA will come in, the federal government will come in, and they will do a good job. But the governments work slowly, because they’re big and cumbersome, and they have all these protections built in to protect the public’s money. The private sector can just do things, and that’s why they’re a little more innovative, because they think it’s right. And we’ll send our people down there, and we’ll figure out what to do when we get there. That’s not how big organizations like the government work.
And so we took lots of medicines down and that sort of thing. And we send some more people down, they just had another thing and that whole thing.
I think to answer your questions on priorities, is you do — you have a whole list of things that you like to work on, and some you can get involved, some it’s totally up to the government. We can’t defend the country in terms of terrorism, those kinds of things.
But we can do things like working and trying to lobby for better education and climate change and trying to convince Congress to vote, to get guns out of the hands of kids and people with psychiatric problems and criminals.
Those are things — or closing coal-fired power plants to clean up the air, those are things the private sector can do. And they probably, in some senses, can do it better than the government. We both need each other, it’s a symbiotic relationship.
But the driving forces are very different. And a company like Apple — you look at them, they are innovative, they’ve done the things — they’ve done things that nobody thought were possible. OK, if they are focused on some of the societal problems, you can expect the same kind of results from them.
MURPHY: Let’s talk about some of those problems that you’ve tackled, and that I know you’re so committed to and the company has been committed to. Talk about education, we all talk about the lack of innovation.
Whether we’re preparing our workers, our children for the jobs of tomorrow and not the jobs of yesterday. Apple has been very vested in education, particularly on coding, as well. Is that moving as rapidly as you think it needs to to address what Jack Ma has called “the technological revolution, the third technology revolution that we face”?
COOK: I — I’ve been really heartened by the public sector here. In their willingness to engage and be very aggressive, we — we started many years ago crafting a language that would be as easy to learn as Apple products are to use.
We — we then designed a curriculum We found a number of incredible K12 institutions wanting and pulling the curriculum. We then took that to community colleges, we rolled that out in May, there — we’re already talking to 33 different community college systems in the states. And — and these are huge systems with hundreds of thousands of people. And — and so I’m seeing a incredible desire to bring coding to the masses.
This is, in my view, one of the keys to the middle class. You know, where manufacturing was a key for the middle class years ago, coding is the — is a key for the middle class for tomorrow and today to be frank. There’s mass shortages in the world. And it’s not just in tech, it’s that has become incredible fundamental of all of our businesses, you know, whether you’re running a retailer or an automotive manufacturer or whatever you may be doing, or the or the guy on the street corner, actually. And — and so I’m seeing — I have not seen teachers not willing or wanting to do this. I’ve seen a lack of — of development dollars being spent in — in schools and so we’re actually training teachers right now.
And through every classroom — I can honestly say that through every classroom we’ve been in, we’ve found willing teachers, administrators and the kids are more engaged than ever before. Kids want to learn about the digital economy. They’re growing up digital and — and it’s not good for them to grow up digital and then go to school and be in an analogue world.
It just doesn’t work. It turns them off. And so yeah, I’m seeing incredible government support there. We are running Apple on 100 percent renewable energy in the U.S. and many other countries around the world. I’ve seen incredible government support there, particularly in China. We now run our Chinese operations on 100 percent renewable energy.
That is going well and we’re spending a lot of time on human rights. You know, we believe that everybody should be treated with dignity and respect and — and that’s — if you’re born with a disability, we want our products to work with everyone whether you can see or hear or not.
And of course we’re — we’re trying to do our part in enlarging the definition of human rights for everyone. And a lot of that, the immigration discussion earlier really plays into that as well.
MURPHY: Mike, I want to ask you about something that I spent a lot of time thinking about and we’ve touched on this morning; the moment we’re in. And whether or not — I think there’s a lot of people, probably a lot of people in this room, who think that a lot of the ruptures that we’re facing are temporary, that we’ve seen the pendulum swing and swing back, whether it’s economic populism, some of the political movements we’ve seen, closing borders, less belief in globalization, that that’s how the pendulum swings.
What if it’s not? What if we are facing a rupture in terms of people’s belief in the establishment more broadly? That repairing that trust, repairing that sense that government can do something for you, that the private sector can be a force for good, for moral authority in this world, that too — that too many people don’t believe that anymore?
What can we do, what can people in this room do?
BLOOMBERG: Well, I think if you talk about pendulums, a good example would be climate change. There — virtually most reputable scientists think that there is a tipping point that if the climate — if the — if the world kept warming up, that it would keep going and you couldn’t stop it. I don’t know whether that’s true or not. I’m — my inclination is to believe the reputable scientists who, with peer review, come up with theories that this is what’s going to happen.
But one thing I do know, if there’s the remotest possibility that climate change is real, I better buy an insurance policy. I better get ready just in case and it is just irrational to say “I don’t believe it and I’m not gonna do anything.” If you have a plant right by the water, I would suggest you build a berm, move the plant, get an insurance policy, have a backup facility, do those kinds of things.
And if you didn’t, your board would fire you. So there are — the pendulum may go and may not go back and forth on all these things but you have to prepare for the worst. The second thing is, certainly there is, in history, times when things got better and — and the world was more open and then times when we went backwards and we had terrible wars and genocide and that sort of thing.
I hope that’s not the case now. I will say that the dialogue when you get involved in fake news and I want to be careful how I say it, but it if you dumb down the dialogue, it has consequences; it dumbs down everybody’s dialogue. We expect less and in the end it’s the leader of an organization that sets the tone, whether in government it would be the president; at the state level the governor; at the city level the mayor; in the case of corporate America it’s people like Tim in the case of education we know the deans and chairman of the board and the president of the university set the tone.
And if the tone goes down, everybody goes down and how you recover from that, it’s not clear. I think the real answer is you got to get a better leader down the road and we’ve seen — New York City is a good example, it went through some very terrible times and then along came Ed Koch and David Dinkins and Rudy Giuliani and Michael Bloomberg and I hope Bill de Blasio will continue all this he’s done so far he’s been doing it, they’re the ones that set the tone at the city level.
And we have the same thing and you go back and some presidents you’ll agree with, some you won’t, but we follow the leader whether we like it or not and just our beliefs and the way we behave is set by what we see on television, what we read in the paper. And it’s come back to what I said before, words have consequences. It’s not immediate, but they are real.
MURPHY: Tim, final question words have consequences, following the leader you have stepped up, you’ve wanted to be counted on issues. What — we’ve talked about your legacy before, we’ve talked about it reference to Steve Jobs, but for people in this room, what do you want your lasting social imprint to be on Apple? What do you want the companies to be?
COOK: You know I don’t really think about legacy as the truth. I, I, I hope that when my toes point up, if people say he was a good and decent man, that is good enough for me. That’s my goal. MURPHY: Well, I’m sure they’ll be listening to what you said today and making their judgment. Thank you both so much for being here today. Thank you so much for being on the panel.