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ASIC begins new year with further greenwashing action

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An ASX-listed company has been issued with three infringement notices.

ASIC has kicked off 2023 with further action against alleged greenwashing, issuing three infringement notices to ASX-listed energy company Black Mountain Energy (BME).

On Thursday, the regulator explained that the infringement notices had been issued in relation to concerns about alleged false or misleading sustainability-related statements made by BME to the ASX between 23 December 2021 and 8 September 2022.

Statements within three of BME’s ASX announcements suggested that the company was creating a natural gas development project with “net-zero carbon emissions” and that the greenhouse gas emissions associated with its Project Valhalla would be net zero.

ASIC said that it was concerned that BME either did not have a reasonable basis to make these representations or that the representations were factually incorrect.

“ASIC issued eight infringement notices for alleged greenwashing in 2022 and has started the year with further action against a listed company,” said ASIC deputy chair Sarah Court.

“ASIC will continue to closely monitor sustainability claims and take action where we consider representations cannot be substantiated or are factually incorrect.”

BME paid $39,960 to comply with the three infringement notices on 3 January. ASIC noted that payment of an infringement notice is not an admission of guilt or liability.

ASIC has previously issued infringement notices to investment manager Vanguard, super trustee Diversa and energy company Tlou Energy as part of its action against greenwashing.

In relation to Vanguard, the regulator said in early December that it was concerned that product disclosure statements for the Vanguard International Shares Select Exclusions Index Funds may have been liable to mislead the public by overstating an exclusion, or investment screen, claimed to prevent investment in companies involved in significant tobacco sales.

Meanwhile, the regulator indicated in late December that it was concerned that statements on the website of Cruelty Free Super — of which Diversa is the issuer — may have been false or misleading by overstating exclusions.

Vanguard paid $39,960 on 1 December 2022 and Diversa paid $13,320 on 22 December 2022 in compliance with their respective infringement notices.

Greenwashing is among ASIC’s enforcement priorities for this year, with the regulator vowing to take enforcement action where necessary.

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Jon Bragg

Jon Bragg

Jon Bragg is a journalist for Momentum Media's Investor Daily, nestegg and ifa. He enjoys writing about a wide variety of financial topics and issues and exploring the many implications they have on all aspects of life.