Who would have thought that one of the world's hottest, richest companies would spend about a third of its annual meeting discussing sustainability, melting glaciers and the finer points of reporting about greenhouse gas emissions? That's what happened at today's Apple Inc. shareholder meeting.

There were two shareholder proposals on the proxy, one of them from As You Sow, where I work, calling for the company to set greenhouse gas reduction goals and do a better job of environmental and corporate responsibility reporting in general. A second proposal, from Harrington Investments, asked the company to establish a permanent board committee on sustainability.

Normally we get our two minutes to speak and then the meeting veers back to more pressing matters such as how Apple should spent $25 billion in cash it's sitting on. However, a politically conservative investor started off the meeting commenting that the glaciers were not melting, climate change was not real, and Board Member Al Gore had become a laughingstock. This prompted a swift rebuttal from another shareholder in support of Mr. Gore, and the company's social and environmental performance went on to curiously pervade much of the meeting.

A question about our proposal, suggesting that the company do a better job on sustainability reporting, led CEO Steve Jobs to minimize the value of reporting, commenting that sustainability groups like to have companies generate lots of reports, make specific commitments, and schmooze at conferences.

"We don't trumpet" all the good things we do, we just try to do the right thing, he said. The problem with this line of argument is that it allows companies to selectively report on things they are making progress on and conveniently avoid dealing with issues they may be ignoring.

Although corporate responsibility reports by Dell and HP may have some greenwash, the benefit of those reports is to set out specific goals and key performance indicators and then discuss how well they have met them.

Another investor began to spontaneously engage Mr. Jobs in a lengthy exchange about the value of product environmental reports posted on Apple's website. The company says the reports "show the complete environmental footprint of every new Apple product so you can see how each one affects the planet."