Nature Conservancy CEO Mark Tercek announced Friday he would step down, the latest departure from the powerful environmental group in the wake of a sexual harassment and workplace misconduct investigation.
Tercek's exit comes just one week after the resignation of President Brian McPeek amid swirling complaints about the culture at the environmental group that operates in 72 countries and had long enjoyed support from across the political spectrum.
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Tercek joined The Nature Conservancy in 2008 from Goldman Sachs. He sought to bring Wall Street-style practices to the massive environmental organization, which racked up $1.3 billion in revenue in 2018 and holds billions in assets. Under him, the group cemented partnerships with some of the world’s biggest multinational corporations as well as wealthy donors and several foreign governments. It also earned bipartisan praise on Capitol Hill for its conservation work.
“It’s been an honor to lead this great organization and its world-class team,” Tercek said in a statement. “In my view, it’s the right time for The Nature Conservancy’s next leader to step up to amplify the momentum we’ve built over the past decade."
But Tercek had received criticism from staff for his handling of the workplace culture at the world’s largest environmental group. Many were incensed at Tercek’s initial decision to keep then-president McPeek in his role, though he ultimately asked for McPeek’s resignation May 31.
Staff members who spoke to POLITICO have said that The Nature Conservancy has long overlooked complaints about gender inequality and discrimination, and they say attempts to fix the issues lacked follow through.
Tercek had recused himself from the recent internal probe into workplace issues at The Nature Conservancy. But he acknowledged in a video sent to staff Tuesday that he mishandled the results of that investigation conducted by law firm McDermott Will & Emery that was first reported by POLITICO.
Organizations around the world have been under pressure to reevaluate systemic gender discrimination in the workplace in the #MeToo era, which has sought to eliminate biases and institutions that have disadvantaged women.
While publicly held in high regard for its conservation work, the organization was rife with institutional problems that disadvantaged women and those who suffered at the hands of alleged misconduct, according to the McDermott Will & Emery report. It found the organization had a “male-dominated culture where it is difficult for women to flourish” and that it often sided with the accused, rather than the accuser.
“The organization, despite its great mission and otherwise, I really believe it was poorly run,” a former senior staffer told POLITICO shortly before Tercek announced his departure.