“Steve Jobs was once asked at an Apple [AAPL] shareholder meeting by a shareholder who wanted get some insights into his deepest thinking: ‘What keeps you awake at night?'” Steve Denning writes for Forbes. “Mr. Jobs replied, ‘Shareholder meetings.'”

“The wisdom of this insight was borne out last week when Mr. Jobs’s successor at Apple, Tim Cook, was asked at the annual shareholder meeting by the NCPPR, the conservative finance group, to disclose the costs of Apple’s energy sustainability programs, and make a commitment to doing only those things that were profitable,” Denning writes. “Mr. Cook replied –with an uncharacteristic display of emotion–that a return on investment (ROI) was not the primary consideration on such issues.”

MacDailyNews Note: In the interest of accuracy, we’ll skip the usual misquotes and paraphrasing. What Cook actually said was reported by The Loop‘s Jim Dalrymple thusly:

No, I wouldn’t be willing to say that because we do things for other reasons than profit motives. We do things because they are right and just and that is who we are. That’s who we are as a company. I don’t… when I think about human rights, I don’t think about an ROI. When I think about making our products accessible for the people that can’t see or to help a kid with autism, I don’t think about a bloody ROI, and by the same token, I don’t think about helping our environment from an ROI point of view. It’s not how I look at it. My simple point was if you did only look at it in that way for the Maiden data center, the same decisions would have been made and so there are cases where you can see these two spheres connecting but I’m not going to say that that’s all I’m going to do by any means. I don’t look at it that way. Just to be very straightforward with you, if that’s a hard line for you, if you only want me to make things, make decisions that have a clear ROI, then you should get out of the stock just to be plain and simple… Thank you. I think it’s so important to remember that the Apple brand stands for something and you can’t take each piece of it and say, “This has a 20% ROI and this has a 15, and you shouldn’t have given this $100 million to education,” and all this kind of stuff. That’s not the way we look at it. It’s not who we are as people.

“What the NCPPR is exemplifying is the 20th Century traditional management mindset that has for decades been chasing short-term profits and destroying the long-term profitability of so many companies. The rates of return on assets and on invested capital of US firms continue on their disastrous decline,” Denning writes. “By contrast, the management of Apple, before Steve Jobs and now Tim Cook, has its mind clearly focused on delighting customers in a holistic way. The result? Huge profitability in both the short- and long-term.”

Read more in the full article here.

Related articles:
If Tim Cook does not care about the ‘bloody ROI’, does he care about the bloody stock price? – March 4, 2014
Apple’s Tim Cook and his dilemma over sustainability and climate change – March 3, 2014
Tim Cook gets angry over shareholder proposal for environmental spending transparency, says those who disagree should get out of Apple stock – March 1, 2014