The Australian Securities & Investments Commission (ASIC) has confirmed it is investigating a complaint by Comms Declare against Shell for alleged greenwashing.
Comms Declare, represented by the Environmental Defenders Office (EDO), formally complained that Shell Australia may have breached sections of the federal Australian Consumer Law by giving investors and consumers the false impression that the company has a plan to be net-zero by 2050.
Comms Declare Founder, Belinda Noble said; “Vague and meaningless net zero fantasies are being cynically deployed by fossil fuels companies to buy social licence in spite of global warming. Regulators need to ensure that consumers are protected from these disingenuous marketing tactics.”
Comms Declare raises several points in the complaint including:
· Shell is still primarily an oil and gas company and is not significantly transitioning its business into renewable energy
· Shell has no intention of implementing its net zero business plan according to evidence presented to the US House of Representatives
· Shell’s climate targets deliberately exclude the petrochemical and trading parts of the business.
In responding to the complaints ASIC wrote, “Thank you for bringing this matter to ASIC’s attention. We have now referred the issues you have raised to a specialist team within ASIC for further consideration. Please note, however, that ASIC does not comment on operational matters. We may comment publicly on investigations and enforcement actions if it is the public interest to do so.”
Greenwashing is one of ASIC’s 2023 Enforcement Priorities and it has recently launched court proceedings against Mercer and fined Tlou Energy Limited, Vanguard Investments Australia, Diversa Trustees Limited and Black Mountain Energy.
Ad Standards Response
A complaint was also made to Ad Standards’ claiming breaches of the voluntary Environmental Claims Code.
Ad Standards dismissed Comms Declare’s complaint, saying the net zero claims were not misleading or deceptive because they were too vague and were mentioned in Shell’s corporate strategy.
Ad Standards is currently reviewing its code amid criticism that it is failing to stop widespread greenwashing that is undermining consumer confidence.