Making Up for Lost Time: As Apple Ramps Up Its Philanthropy, Will Its Executives Follow Suit?

Philip schiller talks about changes to Apple's Macbook Pro. photo:  Hadrian/shutterstock

Philip schiller talks about changes to Apple's Macbook Pro. photo:  Hadrian/shutterstock

In mid-September, Philip Schiller, Apple's senior vice president of worldwide marketing, stood on stage at the Steve Jobs Theater in Cupertino to introduce the new iPhone X.

Around the same time, the Brunswick, Maine-based Bowdoin College announced it received a $10 million gift from Schiller and his wife, Kim Gassett-Schiller, to allow the college to expand programs for students who want to study oceans, the environment and climate change.

The juxtaposition of these coincidental news items provides rich fodder for philanthropy bloggers like yours truly. On one hand, the world's most valuable company stands poised to generate billions in new profits; on the other, one of its executives—namely, the "Highest Paid CMO in the World"—makes an intriguing and possibly portentous foray into philanthropy. Where to begin?

Well, as with most things pertaining to Apple, we must begin with Steve Jobs.

Jobs was famously nonplussed by philanthropy, arguing that Apple's products, and not large tax-deductible donations, made the world a better place. Why is this relevant now? Simple. When it comes to corporate philanthropy, the CEO sets the tone. And as we've been learning in recent years, Tim Cook doesn't share Jobs' notorious ambivalence toward philanthropy. Apple has been playing catch-up in this department since Tim Cook took the reins in 2011.

Give Cook credit—he's made up for lost time. One of his first moves upon assuming power was launching the company's innovative employee matching program, which has raised over $50 million in its inception. This is in addition to a litany of other diverse and well-funded philanthropic efforts, including, most recently, donations to anti-hate groups in the wake of the violence in Charlottesville and Hurricane Harvey relief efforts. And while not much is known about Cook's personal giving, in 2015, he pledged to give all of his Apple stock, valued in the hundreds of millions, to charity.

As for Schiller, beyond taking the Ice Bucket Challenge to raise awareness for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, there isn't much in the public record around his philanthropy.

What is public record, however, is the fact that back in 2011, Apple granted Schiller 150,000 restricted stock units, valued at nearly $60 million. Two years later, he sold 37,172 shares of common stock at a price of $500 and netted $18.6 million.

Philip Schiller grew up in Massachusetts and attended Boston College, so we wouldn't be surprised to see him donating to his alma mater at some point. (There's certainly a relationship, there; a little over two years ago, he was the keynote speaker at the grand opening of the school's new entrepreneurship center.) Meanwhile, the couple has already made gifts to Kim's alma mater, Salem State University, and she's very active in helping that school raise money. 

Additionally, the Schillers' son graduated from Bowdoin last year, and the couple hopes their gift will advance research on climate change.

"I can’t think of anything more important than the environment, climate change," Schiller said. "It's happening and it's inescapable, and looking for things we can do, ways we can reduce its impact, change its impact—that's going to take a lot of research and data and test theories. And Bowdoin is a unique place to contribute."

Bowdoin’s Coastal Studies Center, located 12 miles from campus, has been renamed the Schiller Coastal Studies Center.

If Schiller was the chief marketing officer at a business called KDR Logistics Enterprises (I made that up), one would be forgiven for viewing his gift in a vacuum. But he's the chief marketing officer for the most valuable company in the world, and one that has significantly ramped up its philanthropy in recent years. Context is important, here.

To that end, it's worth noting that Schiller's motivations echo the corporate and philanthropic priorities of his employer. Apple has emerged as an environmental leader in recent years, with a growing portfolio of sustainability work that includes clean energy, toxics reduction, and conservation. Tim Cook even went so far as to tell shareholders to ditch their stocks if they didn’t like Apple's pledge to cut greenhouse gas emissions. It makes sense that Schiller would support efforts to combat climate change.

Similarly, given the cumulative wealth on the table, coupled with the uptick in Apple's corporate philanthropy, it's only natural to wonder if other members of its executive team will follow Cook's lead. Here are a few candidates to keep an eye on moving forward.

Angela Ahrendts, SVP of Retail. The only female executive at Apple, Ahrendts earned over $70 million in 2014, more than any other executive including Cook. Prior to Apple, she was CEO of Burberry, a London-based luxury fashion house. In 2011, she raised approximately $775,000 for charity after donating 50,000 of her shares to her Ahrendts-Couch Foundation.

Eddy Cue, SVP of Internet Software and Services. Cue is proof that when the CEO leads, employees follow. Over the past few years, Tim Cook has raised a lot of money auctioning off personal "face time" on the online charity auction platform Charity Buzz. A 2016 auction, for example, raised close to $700,000 for RFK Human Rights group.

Taking "a cue from boss"—not my pun—Cue auctioned off a lunch date and MacBook Air in 2014, raising over $11,000. And earlier this year, Cue raised over $250,000 for a one-on-one meeting at Apple Park. Proceeds from both auctions benefited the National Association of Basketball Coaches Foundation.

Jonathan Ive, Chief Design Officer. In 2013, Ive collaborated with U2 frontman Bono to design and curate items for his (RED) charity auction, which raised $26 million to tackle AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria. (Yes, Tim Cook attended the auction.)

Dan Riccio, SVP Hardware Engineering. In 2012, Riccio sold nearly $11 million worth of company stock, giving a small portion of the gains to an unknown charity.

Bruce Sewell, SVP and General Counsel. Sewell, who received his J.D. from George Washington University in 1986, endowed the Homer B. Sewell Scholarship Fund—named after his father—to support students studying intellectual property law at his alma mater. He's also been involved with Equal Justice Works, an initiative that provides two-year fellowships to young lawyers assigned to projects or cases in underserved communities.

Last but not least, there's Apple Chairman Art Levinson, who has a deep interest in scientific and medical causes. Levinson is the current CEO of Calico, Google’s new anti-aging research company, and is a funder of the Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences, a competition for the biology research community that rewards researchers who develop cures for "intractable diseases" and can manage to "extend human life."