"Do The Right Thing"

Tim Cook, from a internal Apple memo, posted by Re/Code:

It doesn’t feel right for the FTC to sue over a case that had already been settled. To us, it smacked of double jeopardy. However, the consent decree the FTC proposed does not require us to do anything we weren’t already going to do, so we decided to accept it rather than take on a long and distracting legal fight.

Cook has never been one to mince words.

Later on in the memo:

Apple is a company full of disruptive ideas and innovative people, who are also committed to upholding the highest moral, legal and ethical standards in everything we do. As I’ve said before, we believe technology can serve humankind’s deepest values and highest aspirations. As Apple continues to grow, there will inevitably be scrutiny and criticism along our journey. We don’t shy away from these kinds of questions, because we are confident in the integrity of our company and our coworkers.

John Gruber, at Daring Fireball, posits:

This paragraph strikes me as the central thesis of the entire memo. In a nut, it’s a sincere version of “Don’t be evil.”


There’s a phrase that I’ve heard from Tim Cook multiple times over the last few years that, to me, will go down as one of the defining elements of his tenure at Apple. I’ve highlighted them with emphasis below.

From his Auburn Lifetime Achievement Award acceptance speech:

Think hard about the words in the UN Charter and if you believe as I do, push with all your might to influence your representatives to vote against discrimination. If you believe as I do, advocate and push for immigration reform that recognizes basic human rights and human dignity. Both of these are great for the American economy, but do not do them because they are economically sound, although they are:

Do them because they are right and just.

From an internal Apple video advising employees to review Apple’s Business Conduct Policy::

As Dr. Martin Luther King once said, the time is always right to do what’s right. At Apple, we do the right thing. Even when it’s not easy. If you see something that doesn’t meet our standards, speak up. Whether it’s a quality issue or a business practice, if it affects Apple’s integrity, we need to know about it.

And from the 2012 Businessweek cover story which profiled Cook:

Prior to his death on Oct. 5, 2011, Steve Jobs made sure that the elevation of Tim Cook—his longtime head of operations and trusted deputy—to Apple chief executive officer would be drama-free. “He goes, ‘I never want you to ask what I would have done,’” recalls Cook. “‘Just do what’s right.’ He was very clear.”

From the same interview:

We want diversity of thought. We want diversity of style. We want people to be themselves. It’s this great thing about Apple. You don’t have to be somebody else. You don’t have to put on a face when you go to work and be something different. But the thing that ties us all is we’re brought together by values. We want to do the right thing. We want to be honest and straightforward. We admit when we’re wrong and have the courage to change.


If the unofficial slogan, the moral compass, the credo for Google is “Don’t Be Evil1, Apple’s credo is simply “Do The Right Thing2.

Just look at the difference in language and tone here:

Don’t Be Evil" explicitly acknowledges that being evil is an option, a possibility. It could be read as "don’t be perceived as evil" or "don’t get caught". Not to mention the negative, forbidding tone of the word "Don’t".

Do the Right Thing" is positive language. It’s enabling and empowering. "Evil" is disavowed and out of the equation. It’s literally out of the conversation. And it shows in how Apple has conducted itself during the Tim Cook era3.


  1. Yes, I am aware that the full Google slogan at one point was:

    Do the right thing: don’t be evil. Honesty and Integrity in all we do. Our business practices are beyond reproach. We make money by doing good things.

    The fact that we instead associate Google with “Don’t Be Evil”, instead of “Do the Right Thing" says it all. Not to mention the fact that the phrase "Do the Right Thing" is nowhere to be found on Google’s “What We Believe” page today

  2. Or, alternatively, “Do what is right”. 

  3. In particular, I’m talking about things like the Maps apology, Supply Chain labor compliance, Tim Cook’s Wall Street Journal Op-ed, the “Warrant Canary”, and Environmental Initiatives