Australia: ASIC brings first court action alleging ‘greenwashing’ against superannuation company

Lawyers Weekly Australia reports

The corporate regulator is commencing civil penalty proceedings against alleged greenwashing conduct, involving the supposed making of misleading statements and engagement in conduct that could mislead the public about sustainability.

The Australian Securities & Investment Commission (ASIC) has launched proceedings in the Federal Court of Australia against Mercer Superannuation (Australia) Limited, for allegedly making misleading statements about the sustainable nature and characteristics of some of its superannuation investment options.

The corporate regulator is alleging that Mercer made statements on its website about seven ‘Sustainable Plus’ investment options offered by the Mercer Super Trust (of which Mercer is the trustee), marketing such options as suitable for members who “are deeply committed to sustainability” because they excluded investments in companies involved in carbon intensive fossil fuels, alcohol production and gambling, ASIC said.

However, the regulator alleged in a statement, members who took up the Sustainable Plus options had investments in companies involved in industries Mercer’s website had said were excluded, such as 15 companies involved in the extraction or sale of carbon intensive fossil fuels, 15 companies involved in the production of alcohol, and 19 companies involved in gambling.