The corporate regulator has issued its first penalty for greenwashing, fining Australian company Tlou Energy $53,280.
The Australian Securities and Investments Commission (Asic) said Tlou, which was developing power projects in parts of Africa, had paid the total for four infringements for making alleged false or misleading sustainability-related statements to the ASX in October last year.
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The regulator, along with the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, has been cracking down on greenwashing, which is the practice of misrepresenting the extent to which a financial product or investment strategy is environmentally friendly, sustainable or ethical.
Earlier this month, Asic said it was looking to step up its anti-greenwashing actions and had a number of active investigations examining potential misleading or deceptive conduct.
Tlou was fined for statements and images contained in two ASX announcements.
The statements claimed the electricity the company produced would be carbon neutral, that Tlou had environmental approval and the capability to generate certain quantities of electricity from solar power, that a gas-to-power project would be low emissions, and that the company was equally concerned with producing clean energy through the use of renewable sources as it was with developing its gas-to-power project.
ASIC was concerned that Tlou either did not have a reasonable basis to make the representations, or that the representations were factually incorrect.
Asic’s deputy chair, Sarah Court, said companies promoting their sustainability and green credentials “must ensure they can support those statements and have a reasonable basis for doing so”.
“ASIC is currently investigating a number of listed entities, super funds and managed funds in relation to their green credentials claims,” she said.
“Companies are on notice that ASIC is actively monitoring the market for potential greenwashing and will take enforcement action, including court action, for serious breaches.”
Asic said Tlou had paid the infringement notices this week. Payment of an infringement notice is not an admission of guilt or liability.
Comment has been sought from Tlou Energy.