The Australian Securities and Investments Commission's (ASIC) promised focus on 'greenwashing' continues with the regulator issuing an infringement notice to superannuation fund promoter, Future Super Investment Services Pty Ltd (Future Super).
The infringement notice was issued over concerns about a post on Facebook that included the statement:
‘Naysayers don’t join together and move nearly $400million out of fossil fuels.’
Broadly, ASIC is concerned that this overstates the fund's positive environmental impact because at the time the post was made,
'Future Super had approximately $400 million in total funds under management and had no basis to represent that the entirety of those funds had been invested in fossil fuels prior to being invested in the Fund'.
The specific reasons for ASIC’s concerns are set out in the infringement notice.
Future Super paid the $13,320 infringement notice on 27 April 2023 (which is not an admission of guilt or liability).
Tackling greenwashing remains a top enforcement priority for ASIC
ASIC has previously identified addressing 'misleading conduct in relation to sustainable finance including greenwashing' among its top enforcement priorities for 2023. Since October 2022, ASIC has issued over $150,000 in greenwashing infringement notices as well as commencing its first greenwashing court action.
ASIC Deputy Chair Sarah Court said the issue of this latest fine underlines the regulator's continued focus, and willingness to take action on the issue. Ms Court also reiterated the regulator's expectation that industry ensure their sustainability statements are backed up with evidence. Ms Court stated:
'This action should send a message to the financial services industry that ASIC is continuing to focus on greenwashing broadly, in statements to the market, disclosure documents, marketing material and on social media. Industry using social media to promote green claims are not immune from ASIC action. We expect the industry to be able to stand by their sustainability statements and back these up with evidence'.
- Ms Court referred industry to ASIC's information sheet (INFO 271) for guidance on how to avoid greenwashing.
- MinterEllison has also released a report offering insights and practical tips from recent regulatory investigations and greenwashing litigation in Australia and globally. You can access the full text here.
[Source: ASIC media release 02/05/2023]
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