Apple, Inc. – Civil Rights Audit (2022)
Outcome: 53% vote in favor of the proposal
RESOLVED: That shareholders of Apple Inc. (“Apple”) urge the Board of Directors to oversee a third-party audit analyzing the adverse impact of Apple’s policies and practices on the civil rights of company stakeholders, above and beyond legal and regulatory matters, and to provide recommendations for improving the company’s civil rights impact. Input from civil rights organizations, employees, and customers should be considered in determining the specific matters to be analyzed. A report on the audit, prepared at reasonable cost and omitting confidential or proprietary information, should be publicly disclosed on Apple’s website.
SUPPORTING STATEMENT: Recently, the racial justice movement together with the disproportionate impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic have focused the public’s and policy makers’ attention on civil rights and gender and racial equity issues. Apple lists diversity, inclusion, and accessibility among its key values. It committed $100 million to a new racial justice initiative following the racial justice
protests in 2020. The company has also promoted its longstanding gender and racial pay equity policy.
Yet, it is unclear how Apple plans to address racial inequality in its workforce. The company states that the overall number of Hispanic and Black employees in leadership increased by 90% and 60%, respectively, from 2014-2020, but Apple currently has no Hispanics and only one Black member on its executive team. Further, Hispanic and Black tech employees only account for 8% and 4% of all tech employees, respectively.
Apple shut down three employee run surveys related to pay equity that focused on minorities and women. Nonetheless, achieving true racial and gender equity goes beyond just pay issues. In August 2021, Apple placed a female engineering programming manager on indefinite leave after she accused the company of sexism, harassment, and retaliation. Additionally, Apple hired Antonio García Martínez, who had a history of misogynistic and racist commentary, as an advertising platform engineer. While he was fired after a highly publicized employee petition, we believe that a civil rights audit could have identified the concerns raised by Apple’s employees far earlier.
Civil rights issues raised by Apple’s products and services are also concerning. Privacy experts, over 90 global policy organizations, and Apple’s own employees have raised concerns over the company’s newly developed child sexual abuse material technology, noting it could be subject to abuse and potential misuse by law enforcement. Further, targeted advertising has a history of racist and sexist impacts. Apple’s advertising business increased from $300 million in 2017 to $3 billion in 2021. Given the importance of advertising to Apple’s future profitability, we believe that it should be subject to rigorous third-party analysis of its racial and gender impacts.
A civil rights audit will help Apple identify, remedy, and avoid adverse impacts on its stakeholders. We urge Apple to assess its behavior through a civil rights lens to obtain a complete picture of how it contributes to social and economic inequality.