ASIC has issued an infringement notice to Future Super for overstating its positive environmental impact on social media, expanding the regulator’s scope of scrutinising asset owners and product providers over their ESG claims.

On a Facebook post, the fund included the statement: “Naysayers don’t join together to move nearly $400 million out of fossil fuels,” referring to all funds under management it held.

The corporate regulator argued Future Super had no basis to represent that all those funds had been invested in fossil fuels before being invested in the fund.

ASIC deputy chair Sarah Court said the Facebook post overstated the positive environmental impact of the fund and was concerned it may be misleading to investors and potential investors.

“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,” Court said in a media release on Tuesday morning.

“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.”

Future Super self-reported the post to ASIC, removed the offending post and paid the infringement fee.
In a statement, Future Super said it takes greenwashing seriously. The fund has reviewed its processes since 2019 to ensure it is complying with its legal obligations.

“The poorly drafted post had intended to make the point that $400 million had been switched away from fossil fuel-exposed super funds as opposed to fossil fuel investments,” the statement said.

“Facebook’s analytics indicate that the post was seen by 28 people prior to being taken down.”

Significant issue

ASIC has stepped up enforcement against funds for greenwashing claims because it can mislead consumers into thinking they are making environmentally responsible choices when they may actually be supporting companies with little regard for the environment.

The regulator has issued infringement notices about greenwashing against Tlou Energy, Vanguard Investments Australia, Diversa Trustees, and Black Mountain Energy. It also commenced civil proceedings in the federal court against Mercer Super for alleged greenwashing.

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