Toward the end of Apple CEO Tim Cook's Oct. 30 Bloomberg Businessweek article in which he publicly acknowledged for the first time that he's gay, he writes that the "company I am so fortunate to lead has long advocated for human rights and equality for all." He then lists specific, well-publicized stands Apple has taken on behalf of equal rights. By tying his very personal statement that being gay has given him "a deeper understanding of what it means to be a minority" to his company's advocacy for human rights and equality, Cook has—deliberately or not—raised Apple's profile as a powerful global corporate force that will put its weight behind positive social change.
While Cook's announcement comes as no surprise, it's clear from the concision of his self-penned article that it was carefully wrought, and that he is aware that any personal stand he takes will reflect on his company—and that his company would have to live up to it. Cook discusses the tension he felt between protecting his privacy and giving in to the pull of transparency, but for Apple, the larger issue is its living up to Cook's characterization of the company which, like other high-tech companies, has faced criticism for labor practices used in its supply chain.
Cook's piece is personal—he makes it clear that it's about him, not the company he leads. But in that penultimate paragraph in which he specifically discusses the company's own advocacy, he may be setting the stage for a different kind of innovation from Apple—one centered on human rights.