Apple cuts community from its priorities…

October 28, 2010

Even for those among us who love Apple’s gadgets and software (and we’re die-hard Apple fans here at footnoted), it’s not like the company is exactly soft and cuddly. There’s that business of the prosecutor and the AWOL iPhone 4 prototype, and of course a Texas jury earlier this month found that Apple violated several patents central to some of the Mac’s niftier features. (Apple is appealing.)

But for all its prickliness, the company has prominently counted “Community” among a select list of core principles. Here’s the list of Apple’s Principles of Business Conduct — enshrined at the very top of the company’s Business Conduct Policy. Here’s what the full list looks like:

Apple’s Principles of Business Conduct

Apple’s success is based on creating innovative, high-quality products and services and on demonstrating integrity in every business interaction. Apple’s principles of business conduct define the way we do business worldwide. These principles are:

Honesty. Demonstrate honesty and high ethical standards in all business dealings.

Respect. Treat customers, suppliers, employees, and others with respect and courtesy.

Confidentiality. Protect the confidentiality of Apple’s information and the information of our customers, suppliers, and employees.

Community. Conduct business in a way that benefits the communities in which we operate.

Compliance. Ensure that business decisions comply with all applicable laws and regulations.

Rather, that’s what the full list looked like, until July of this year. Yesterday, along with its 10-K, Apple filed the latest version of its Business Conduct Policy. And wouldn’t you know it, that line about “Community” is mysteriously missing:

Apple’s Principles of Business Conduct

Apple’s success is based on creating innovative, high-quality products and services and on demonstrating integrity in every business interaction. Apple’s principles of business conduct define the way we do business worldwide. These principles are:

Honesty. Demonstrate honesty and high ethical standards in all business dealings.

Respect. Treat customers, suppliers, employees, and others with respect and courtesy.

Confidentiality. Protect the confidentiality of Apple’s information and the information of our customers, suppliers, and employees.

Compliance. Ensure that business decisions comply with all applicable laws and regulations.

Now, deeper into the document (on page 8), Apple seems to have kept a few lines that encourage employees to warn the lobbyists if they hold elected office, and asserting that the company complies with the law and operates “in ways that benefit the communities in which we conduct business.” But there’s no doubt that the new version of the code relegate Apple’s community affairs from the most prominent of positions to something resembling an afterthought.

On its website, Apple helpfully offers a one-page summary of changes to the document (PDF). But other than noting that the section was “[u]pdated … to focus on four core principles of Honesty, Respect, Confidentiality and Compliance,” the change isn’t acknowledged or explained.

It’s all a little odd, given outside indications over the years that Apple isn’t shy about getting involved. Presumably, it can still do so, even if it doesn’t count community among its top principles of business conduct. We hope it will.

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