ASIC Sues Mercer Superannuation Over Investment Option Greenwashing

Wind power station by the sea

The Australian Securities & Investments Commission (ASIC) has launched its first court action against alleged greenwashing, suing Mercer Superannuation Limited in the Federal Court for claims about the sustainable nature of its investment options.

ASIC said that Mercer made statements on its website about seven “Sustainable Plus” investment options offered by Mercer Super Trust.

Mercer said that these statements were for members who “are deeply committed to sustainability” as they excluded investments in companies involved in carbon-intensive fossil fuels. They also excluded investments in alcohol and gambling companies.

However, ASIC said that the Sustainable Plus investment options included 15 companies involved in the extraction or sale of carbon-intensive fossil fuels, such as AGL Energy, BHP Group, Glencore, and Whitehaven Coal.

It also included 15 companies involved in the production of alcohol, including Budweiser, Carlsberg, Heineken, and Treasury Wine Estates and 19 gambling companies including Aristocrat Leisure, Caesar’s Entertainment, Crown Resorts, and Tabcorp.

“This is the first time ASIC has taken an Australian entity to court regarding alleged greenwashing conduct, and it reflects our continuing efforts to ensure sustainability-related claims made by financial institutions are accurate,” said ASIC deputy chair Sarah Court.

“There is increased demand for sustainability-related financial products, and with that comes the growing risk of misleading marketing and greenwashing. If financial products make sustainable investment claims to investors and potential investors, they need to reflect the true position. If investments in certain industries like fossil fuels are said to be excluded, this promise must be upheld.”

Environmental claims in advertising and marketing are fast becoming a bone of contention for many industry figures and consumers alike. James Walker-Smith, general manager of Leo Burnett, previously told B&T that, “at a time when consumers are increasingly looking to use their purchasing power to better reflect their own values, misleading claims around sustainability are particularly pernicious.”

ASIC has slapped a range of companies with infringement notices totalling more than $140,000 to date, including Tlou Energy Limited, Vanguard Investments Australia. And Black Mountain Energy.




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