Apple helping rebuild Notre Dame is a perfect example of how it’s changed under Tim Cook

Andy Meek

Apple CEO Tim Cook tweeted early Tuesday morning that the company would be donating money as a way of helping French officials rebuild the Notre Dame cathedral, which was badly damaged in a fire that broke out Monday and destroyed its iconic spire.

A number of public officials from around the world quickly chimed in with their regret at the damage and paying honor to the historically significant landmark and major tourist attraction in Paris. And along with Cook’s promise, more than $600 million was pledged in 24 hours from companies like L’Oreal, as well as rich celebrities, who want to help rebuild the cathedral.

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The tweet from Apple’s chief executive doesn’t make clear to what extent the company will contribute funds, but it nevertheless also speaks to something larger than the specific issue at hand — something we’ve been seeing play out at Apple ever since Cook was handed the reins after Steve Jobs’ passing.


Inside and out, Apple has turned itself into one of the most charitable of America’s major corporations, with employees nudged to give back and donate to worthy causes in a way that wasn’t done during Apple’s earlier years. Related to that, Cook has also been clear that he wants Apple to be seen as a force for good, not mostly a retailer of super-luxe consumer electronics.

That’s one of the areas Cult of Mac editor and publisher Leander Kahney explores in his biography of Cook that’s out today — the first such biography of Apple’s famously secretive top executive — and which underscores how deeply Cook cares about things like ethics, privacy and how a company is perceived in the world. For example, while studying at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business, Kahney’s book Tim Cook: The Genius Who Took Apple to the Next Level notes that Cook decided to also take an ethics class as part of his studies, something considered unusual and maybe even not all that necessary for an engineer.

“Cook wanted to broad his horizons and develop a more global view of engineering and business,” the book notes. “Even this early in his career, he was interested in the idea that companies could be a force for good in the world.”

This is not to say the company is perfect and doesn’t have myriad areas where it can improve. But it does help put in context a lot of Apple’s various decisions these days. Including why a wildly successful tech giant like it would see something like helping rebuild the Notre Dame as a cause worth pursuing.

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