PETA, the animal rights organization known for its bouts of public activism, announced that Apple (AAPL) would be its 2023 Company of the Year following the tech giant’s decision to discontinue leather products.
The award is given annually to a company PETA sees as taking action to resolve animal cruelty or promote animal welfare. Earlier this year, Apple discontinued the use of leather across all product lines and introduced “FineWoven,” a suede-like, recycled material, as part of its goal of making all Apple products carbon neutral by the end of 2030.
“Apple is, according to Forbes, the largest company in the world in terms of market capitalization,” Jacqueline Sadashige, PETA’s senior officer of corporate responsibility, told Observer. “So their decision to end the use of animal leather really sets a strong and solid example for other corporations to follow.”
The annual award is given to companies that represent PETA’s values and mission, said Sadashige. “We try to keep abreast of companies making products and decisions that are going to save animal lives,” she said. PETA and its affiliates keep track of potential honorees throughout the year and choose the recipient at a meeting held in November.
Other companies put forward for the award this year included Simon Property Group, the largest owner of shopping malls across the U.S., which was considered for its decision to ban the use of glue traps across its properties. VF Corporation, owner of brands like The North Face, Timberland and Supreme, was also discussed due to its recent decision to no longer offer cashmere products across its companies, as was Epithelix, a Swiss biotech company using tissues from human cells in lieu of animal testing.
The range of runner-up companies reflects the diverse array of groups recognized by PETA over the years, said Sadashige. The organization often gives its award to groups with a clear ethos of sustainability, and past winners include Good Catch and Beyond Meat, producers of vegan meat products, and Save the Duck, which manufactures animal-friendly puffer jackets. But companies like WeWork and Netflix (NFLX), which won PETA’s Company of the Year award in 2017 and 2018 respectively, are less obvious choices.
How does PETA choose the Company of the Year?
PETA focuses on companies in science and research, food, fashion and entertainment—categories that see the largest amount of animal cruelty, according to Sadashige. “If you think about those four categories, that’s why you’re seeing this diversity across the companies that we award,” she said.
WeWork, for example, received its award for its decision to ban meat at events and retreats, while Netflix was recognized for airing documentaries on animal abuse in the entertainment and food industries. Last year’s winner, video game publisher Annapurna Interactive, was named Company of the Year after releasing a game that followed the journey of a cat and helped raise awareness for stray animals.
The way that PETA measures a company’s impact varies. Vegan or sustainability-focused companies are often rewarded for their ethos and mission, while companies like Apple are recognized for recent landmark decisions. “They sold more than 50 million smartwatches last year and now they’re going to be leather-free, which just means so many animals are going to be saved by that decision,” said Sadashige. “Sometimes an announcement like this happens and we can’t ignore it.”