On 27 February 2023, the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) commenced its first court action for alleged greenwashing conduct by commencing civil penalty proceedings in the Federal Court of Australia against Mercer Superannuation (Australia) Limited (a superannuation company) (Mercer). The action is particularly significant noting that Mercer is reported to manage AU$27.5 billion in superannuation assets.
ASIC alleges that Mercer made misleading statements about the sustainable nature and characteristics of some of its superannuation investment options.
This is a timely reminder of the need for companies to be able to substantiate their sustainability claims and ensure that there is truth in promotion and clarity in communication in relation to their sustainability-related practices. As detailed in our 13 January 2023 note relating to ASIC's regulatory action against ASX-listed Black Mountain Energy Ltd, ASIC is increasingly taking companies to task regarding their environmental and sustainability claims, and companies should be on notice.