Steve Jobs used Apple’s annual shareholders meeting this week to take a swipe at environmental group Greenpeace, and to answer criticism about the company's stock-options scandal.

Steve Jobs used Apple’s annual shareholders meeting this week to take a swipe at environmental group Greenpeace, and to answer criticism about the company's stock-options scandal.

Jobs blunted much of the anticipated criticism of Apple’s environmental record with an essay, A Greener Apple, which was posted on on 4 April.

The company has also deflected criticism by revealing plans to substitute light-emitting diodes (LEDs) for the fluorescent lamps now used to backlight Macs' flat-panel screen displays.

This contributed to the withdrawal of two environmental proposals at the shareholders meeting before they were voted on. Two representatives from Greenpeace were present at the meeting and congratulated Jobs and Apple for the company's commitment to the environment.

However, Jobs had strong words for Greenpeace and the way the organisation has chosen to measure the environmental commitments of manufacturing companies.

"I think your organisation particularly depends too much on principle and not enough on fact," Jobs said to the Greenpeace representatives. "You guys rate people based on what people say their plans are in the distant future, not what they are doing today. I think you put way too much weight on these glorified principles and way too little weight on science and engineering.

“It would be very helpful if your organisation hired a few more engineers and actually entered into dialogue with companies to find out what they are really doing and not just listen to all the flowery language when in reality most of them aren't doing anything. That's my opinion."

Jobs then gave an example of his complaints: in looking for alternate means of producing products without hazardous chemicals, he said, Apple talked to some of the only organisations in the world that could make it happen. Despite the fact other computer makers have claimed they were working on alternatives, Jobs said Apple was the first computer company those organisations had actually heard from.

Jobs then offered to help Greenpeace improve its measuring technology, saying that while Apple supported the idea of an environmental report card, it needed to be a real report card based on science.

"Something that simple could go so far in our opinion," said Jobs. "We are not going to set up a big infrastructure to engage environmental groups. We are real interested in getting the work done."

The most heated shareholder comments at the meeting were over the company's practice of backdating stock options.

"Backdating stock options is unfair to shareholders who can't travel back in time and purchase shares at past market lows," said Brandon Reese, who said he represented the US trade union confederation the AFL/CIO. Reese then asked Jobs to give back the restricted stock he received for the cancelled options that were improperly dated.

Jobs explained that the Board approved the options grant in August 2001. The grant was actually priced in October 2001, he said, at a higher price then when the Board approved it.

"I actually got my options at a higher price, but I didn't ask the company to reimburse me," said Jobs.

Reese then asked Jobs to explain to shareholders what he knew, and when he knew, about the backdating. Reese cited former Apple CFO Fred Anderson's claims that Jobs knew about the accounting implications of backdating the options.

"Fred Anderson did make some comments," Jobs said. "I've worked with Fred for many years and I think he's an awfully good guy, but I thought his comments were a little wrong." Jobs then read aloud a statement from the Securities and Exchange Commission, which praised Apple for its "swift, extensive and extraordinary cooperation" in the investigation, including prompt self-reporting, an internal investigation, sharing the investigation results with the government and implementing new controls to prevent future fraud.

When shareholders questioned Jobs about the way Apple compensates its executive compensation, Jobs said that it was his responsibility to plan the compensation for everyone in the company except himself. The CEO -- who has an annual salary of US$1, although Forbes magazine estimated his 2006 compensation at $646 million -- joked about his own paycheck.

"It's a pretty simple meeting when it comes to me," Jobs said. "I get 50 cents a year just for showing up, and the other 50 cents is based on my performance."

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