Australia’s securities regulator has warned corporates that it has “surveillances and investigations afoot” as it continues its clampdown on greenwashing.
The Australian Securities & Investments Commission (ASIC) chair Joe Longo cited in a speech a report it released last month, detailing how the regulator had secured 23 corrective disclosure outcomes, issued 12 infringement notices and commenced its first civil proceedings earlier this year.
“While I can’t speak to ongoing actions, I can say that we have further surveillances and investigations afoot,” Longo said.
Greenwashing is fast becoming a top priority among Australia’s regulators so much so that the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission listed it as its top enforcement priority for 2022-23.
Longo noted that while Australia’s corporates had taken a number of positive steps to address greenwashing, ASIC had come across four main categories of problematic behaviour that fall under the category of greenwashing.
They are net-zero statements and targets without a reasonable basis or that are factually incorrect; terms like ‘carbon neutral’, ‘clean’ or ‘green’, that are not founded on reasonable grounds; overstatement or inconsistent application of sustainability-related investment screens; and the use of inaccurate labelling or vague terms in sustainability-related funds.
Longo also cautioned corporates from ceasing all voluntary disclosure in an attempt to avoid greenwashing, so-called “greenhushing”, which has become a topical subject following an influential report by South Pole.
“Domestically we’ve observed some commentators and firms saying, in effect, ‘we have such a good ESG policy, but we can’t say anything about it because the regulators won’t let us’. The reality is the critics are right: this kind of response is just another form of greenwashing; an attempt to garner a ‘green halo’ effect without having to do the work,” Longo said.