Is Apple One of the Best Companies in America?

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Apple is a great company. In fact, the overall quality of Apple's stakeholder relationships puts it squarely among the best companies in America. While the tech giant doesn't do everything perfectly, Apple's overall relationship with customers, employees, investors, and the world at large certainly paint this company as a class act.

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Even zooming in a bit closer to Apple stock's three-year performance, it has outperformed the S&P 500 by more than 15%.

But investors know past performance isn't usually an indicator of what is to come. Instead, Apple management's decisions -- those that impact the underlying business -- will make or break the stock in the coming years. Two areas, in particular, will be key for Apple management in growing intrinsic value: innovation and fiduciary responsibility. How is the company performing on these fronts?

As a product-focused company, Apple's innovation is the most important aspect in building shareholder value. Until the company's latest product rollout this month, doubts persisted about whether Apple could truly innovate without co-founder Steve Jobs at the helm. In 2013, Apple's board even had concerns about the company's pace of innovation, according to Fox Business. But the introduction of a well-executed Apple Watch that puts the company into an entirely new product category, and introduces a new revenue stream, demonstrates that innovation is still at Apple's core.

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AAPL Average Diluted Shares Outstanding (Quarterly) data by YCharts .

Best of all, Apple repurchased many of these shares at a significant discount to today's price, making the program extremely shareholder-friendly. And, while we're talking about fiduciary responsibility, we can't forget Apple's dividend. Not only does it yield a meaningful 1.9% return on a cost basis today, but management has said it expects to increase the dividend payout every year.

The larger world matters to Apple

Earlier this year, environmental activist group Greenpeace dubbed Apple an "green energy innovator" in a report on Internet cloud brands. Greenpeace ranked Apple first among the tech companies listed in the report, ahead of Google and Facebook.

"Apple's commitment to renewable energy has helped set a new bar for the industry," the Greenpeace report read, "illustrating in very concrete terms that a 100% renewable Internet is within its reach, and providing several models of intervention for other companies that want to build a sustainable Internet."

Apple is setting the standard in environmentalism among its peers in a growing number of ways. Another example: Apple's iPads account for over 100 of the 140 tablets on the Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool's registry of environmentally preferable products. Apple's products are also represented in the EPEAT registries for desktops, notebooks, displays, and integrated desktop computers.

Furthermore, Apple shows that it cares about the world at large by enforcing increasingly strict standards at its suppliers. When it comes to dealing with its sprawling global supply chain, Apple has made significant improvement under Cook. One of the biggest changes is a new supplier responsibility report that is regularly updated. Apple is more transparent than ever before about its suppliers and the progress it is making in removing hazardous substances, reducing use of conflict materials, not tolerating underage workers, and enforcing maximum 60-hour workweek policies.

Overall, Apple has the marks of an enduring high-quality company. Stakeholders are clearly important to Apple today, and this will likely be the case for years to come. Not only is Apple's current relationships with key stakeholders notable, but the company also is clearly trying to improve its interactions with these stakeholders.

Apple Watch revealed: The real winner is inside

Apple recently revealed the product of its secret-development "dream team" -- Apple Watch. The secret is out, and some early viewers are claiming its everyday impact could trump the iPod, iPhone, and the iPad. In fact, ABI Research predicts 485 million of this type of device will be sold per year. But one small company makes Apple's gadget possible. And its stock price has nearly unlimited room to run for early in-the-know investors. To be one of them, and see where the real money is to be made, just click here !

The article Is Apple One of the Best Companies in America? originally appeared on

Daniel Sparks owns shares of Apple. The Motley Fool recommends Apple, Facebook, Google (A shares), and Google (C shares). The Motley Fool owns shares of Apple, Facebook, Google (A shares), and Google (C shares). Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days . We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy .

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The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

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