Edelman global CEO Richard Edelman said in a conversation with an editor of Vice’s Motherboard blog that former US CEO Mark Hass was fired from the agency in part because of the way he responded to an investigation into PR agencies’ work with climate-change deniers.
Quoted by Motherboard senior editor Brian Merchant, the chief executive of the world’s largest PR agency said, "We fired the head of our US [division] in part because of that stupid note he wrote, about, you know, how we don’t answer these kinds of things."
In response to inquiries from the Climate Investigations Center that were published by The Guardian earlier this month, Hass said in a screengrabbed email, "I do not believe we are obligated in any way to participate…there are no right answers for this guy." It appears Hass did not realize the Center was a recipient of the email.
Edelman was also quoted by Merchant as saying he believed the firm’s stance on climate change was misrepresented, but that "I blame the ham-head who filled out the questionnaire to be a little, uh, slick. And I don’t like that."
Reached by PRWeek on Tuesday, Edelman declined comment on the situation. Hass could not be immediately reached for comment.
The agency said in April that Hass was stepping down from his role with former Edelman New York president Russell Dubner succeeding him. A source close to the situation told PRWeek at the time that a reason for Hass’ departure was that the former MS&L Worldwide CEO was used to working in the top role at a firm with the final say over its decisions, which was not the case at Edelman.
The independent agency was criticized by The Guardian and Motherboard for its middle-of-the-road response to surveys from the Climate Investigations Center and The Guardian about whether it would work with groups that challenge climate change.
A number of other firms ruled out working with companies that deny climate change altogether.
Motherboard, for one, cited Edelman’s work with the American Petroleum Institute, a trade association and lobbying organization that represents the oil industry that has been listed as a sponsor of anti-environmental campaigns.
Last Thursday, Richard Edelman wrote on his 6 am blog that his firm "recognizes the reality of climate change and accepts the science behind the claim."
"We do not accept clients that seek to deny climate change," he continued, citing various agency work supporting environmental groups and those working to cut carbon emissions.
Edelman added that his agency "did a poor job of filling out a form for the Climate Investigations Center" and that journalists were "not given sufficient access to senior management."