Will Apple Get into the Gold Business Through the Side Door?

In recent decades, but particularly since the Exxon Valdez oil spill in 1989, big companies have been catching flak for their insensitivity to the environment. So it’s quite natural for one of the world’s biggest corporations, with one of the highest profiles, to be sensitive to such matters.  Public disapproval about an environmental violation could  prove expensive, not only due to fines and lawsuits, even enhanced reactionary legislation, but, even more costly, an onslaught of terrible PR alienating its customer base.

At a whopping 2015 profit just north of forty-four billion dollars, Apple is inarguably one of the world’s most profitable companies.  Under the circumstances, the company is meticulous in its respect for the environment – in particular how it handles the recycling of its products. Apple uses a robot, Liam, to make sure it’s spot-on accurate about its recycling process. The company also makes sure it reaches out to customers , offering them location information for a nearby Apple store or a convenient way to receive a prepaid mailing label for sending in their devices for recycling.

I have no doubt of Apple’s good intentions in prioritizing the recycling of its electronic wastes, rather than letting them stew in landfills and possibly pose a threat to the environment. But we also have to admire the successful electronics manufacturer for its cost accounting, and just possibly  mining, expertise.

In last year’s annual report, Apple revealed it had recovered over one ton of pure gold from broken and recycled products.  At current prices, that weight represents about forty million dollars from devices they’d already sold. The  recovery is quite a coup for the company; gold is a key component in many consumer electronics products due to its properties as a highly reliable conductor.  According to urbanmining.org:

“There is no question that plenty of cell phone waste is available. Across the world, 1.2 billion mobile phones were sold in 2007. Such enormous numbers of handsets [create] both a demand for metals needed to [manufacture] the phones as well as a large supply of e-waste from which gold and other precious metals may be extracted.”

While we needn’t be skeptical about Apple’s green motives, its vested interest in the future of the gold supply is acute. For arguably the highest-tech, future-oriented company in the world, it continues to leverage the precious metal’s  centuries-old prestige, using it to create ever-more elite luxury tech from gold-covered laptops to outrageously expensive gold Apple Watches for outrageously status-conscious consumers.  If Apple wants to continue to expand and burnish its line of wares, they’re going to need a lot of gold.

Given its stake in the future of physical gold, there can be no question the electronics giant knows a good price when it sees one.  With China, India and world central banks committed to buying increasing quantities of the yellow metal, Apple can’t afford to be indolent in its gold acquisition effort (admittedly, a ton is a nice start).  But can any of us afford to neglect gold?

I’ll admit it, I’m human. Would I like a gold laptop and a gold Apple Watch that’d make everyone I meet green with envy? Sure! But after the fog of status-seeking passes, what I really want is bullet-proof financial security.  Thus, what I’m deriving from the Apple story is the fact that they take the financial importance of gold very seriously. Not only did they take the trouble to reclaim over a ton of gold, they made sure their shareholders knew about it. When you make a smart financial move you want your investors kept abreast of the situation.

Physical gold represents the safest and ultimately most reliable way for you to protect wealth. It’s a tangible asset professional investors, jewelers and electronics companies clearly require a lot of now, and their needs in the future will only increase; yet above-ground supplies are limited. It would be a great idea if, every time you pick up your cell phone or use your laptop, you remind yourself today’s a perfect moment to invest in gold, both now and for your future, before worldwide demand, both from business and central banks, causes the price to surge even higher.