Apple has come out against a shareholder proposal to boycott countries where gay people are executed.

The tech giant, which is one of the world’s largest companies, sells its products in hundreds of markets across the world.

The company has set a strong record on LGBT rights, backing equality non-discrimination laws where it operates around the world and supporting equal marriage.

However, it is facing pressure from a shareholder this week over a mooted ‘boycott’ of countries which violate the human rights of LGBT people.

According to a release, Apple currently operates in 17 countries where homosexuality is illegal, and four where it is punishable by death..

At a meeting in Cupertino today, the company’s shareholders will vote on a proposal from the National Center for Public Policy Research – which owns a stake in Apple – that would require the company to set criteria for regions with significant human rights violations.

The proposal says: “Apple has a presence in 17 countries where homosexual acts are illegal.

“In four of those nations, homosexual acts are punishable by death. These company operations are inconsistent with Apple’s values as extolled by
our CEO.

“The proponent believes that Apple’s record to date demonstrates a gap between its lofty rhetoric / aspirations and its performance. The requested report would play a role in illuminating and addressing the factors accounting for this gap.”

However, Apple CEO Tim Cook – who is gay himself – has come out swinging against the proposals.

A statement from the Board says: “Apple’s products are loved by users all over the world. We believe we are fortunate to serve our customers, and we have operations in many countries to reach them and support our business, including research and development, sales and marketing, and retail stores.

“For example, in 2015, Apple opened its first retail stores in the Middle East: Apple Store Mall of the Emirates in Dubai and Apple Store Yas Mall in Abu Dhabi, both in the United Arab Emirates.

“Our selection of the countries in which we operate is based on a wide range of factors relating to our business strategy. But our values and our principles of business conduct apply everywhere we do business.

“We believe in equality for everyone, regardless of race, age, gender, gender identity, ethnicity, religion, or sexual orientation. That applies throughout our company, around the world, with no exceptions.”

The statement continues: “We have also adopted a Supplier Code of Conduct to promote our standards of social and environmental responsibility and ethical conduct throughout our supply chain.

“Often, these standards exceed what local laws require. In 2014, Apple conducted 633 supply chain audits on labor and human rights, health and safety, and environment, covering over 1.5 million workers in 19 countries.

“Since 2007, Apple has trained more than 8 million workers on their rights.

“We do this because we believe that it drives accountability and improvement throughout our supply chain and ultimately has a positive impact on the communities we’re a part of.”

It continues: “This proposal requests a report on Apple’s guidelines for selecting countries for our operations.

“We do not believe that this would be a productive use of company resources. For example, such a report would necessarily have to omit proprietary information and would therefore be an incomplete picture of our approach.

“Moreover, we believe that Apple’s commitment to protecting and promoting human rights has already been demonstrated by both effective action and transparency about our work.

“Accordingly, the requested report is unnecessary and would not provide meaningful information to shareholders.

“For all of the reasons above, the Board recommends a vote AGAINST Proposal No. 7”