Fortune

APPLE FINDS ITS CORE

IN AN EXCLUSIVE Q&A, CEO TIM COOK TALKS ABOUT HOW THE TECH GIANT IS EMBRACING ITS CORPORATE MISSION BY INVESTING IN EVERYTHING FROM RENEWABLE ENERGY TO EDUCATION TO, YES, WORLD-CHANGING PRODUCTS.
Tim Cook, photographed at Apple’s headquarters in Cupertino on Aug. 30, 2017.

“WE’RE HERE TO PUT a dent in the universe,” Steve Jobs once famously said. “Otherwise why else even be here?” If ever a company was self-consciously focused on making an impact—changing the world, in the argot of Fortune’s annual list—it’s Apple.

And yet, for Jobs the dent that he intended for Apple to make in the universe revolved almost totally around creating new products that would change people’s lives. Those products would be gorgeous and useful and fun and surprising, but rarely “good” in and of themselves. Despite a hippie-dippie veneer and earnest marketing, Apple under Jobs was a ruthlessly efficient moneymaker that largely left social programs to others.

Apple CEO Tim Cook, 56, who joined the company in the middle of his career and has assumed the zealousness of a convert, is no less commercially minded than Jobs. And when asked to explain how Apple changes the world he answers immediately with two words one can imagine Jobs saying too: “our products.”

But Apple under Cook is a company transformed in terms of how it projects onto the world its social awareness and its place in the corporate community. Fortune executive editor Adam Lashinsky, who first profiled Cook in a 2008 magazine cover story titled “The Genius Behind Steve,” sat down with the CEO in late March to discuss Apple’s view of itself as a force for good.

Some of what Cook said is surprising, including why he personally rejected the idea of establishing a corporate foundation. Or that some of Apple’s health care initiatives—which sprang from apps designed for the Apple Watch—have no discernible model for making money and may never.

Cook also paints a picture of Apple’s philanthropic and otherwise commercially beneficent activities as of a piece with the company’s ethos on product development: It tries to do relatively few things so as to better focus on them. Apple’s biggest priorities include renewable energy (it runs its own facilities overwhelmingly on them), education (it is focused on teaching coding from kindergarten through community college), and health care (including the $130 million it has

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