Daily ESG Briefing: Authorities to engage with companies on potential greenwash after EU study

The latest developments in sustainable finance

Companies accused of making “seemingly dubious claims” on the environment will be approached by national authorities after a study into greenwashing by the European Commission. The Commission worked with consumer authorities in Europe to assess 344 such claims, and concluded that nearly half of them (42%) seemed to be false or deceptive, and could therefore potentially constitute unfair commercial practice under current rules. In more than half of the cases, traders did not provide adequate information for consumers to judge the claim’s accuracy. In 37% of cases, the claim included “vague and general statements” such as ‘conscious’, ‘eco-friendly’ and ‘sustainable’, which the Commission said “aimed to convey the unsubstantiated impression to consumers that a product had no negative impact on the environment”. Now, national authorities will reach out to the companies in question “to point out the issues detected and to ensure that these are rectified where necessary”. 

Norges Bank Investment Management, the manager of Norway’s sovereign wealth fund, has divested companies over tax for the first time, according to a report in Reuters. CEO Nicolai Tangen said the firm had divested from seven companies since September because of “aggressive tax planning and cases where companies do not give information of where, and how, they pax tax”. He also said to “expect more activity” on tax policy divestment.

The European Central Bank has said it will establish a climate change centre, reporting directly to its President, Christine Largarde. The body will lead the bank’s work on the issue across its different parts.

Australian retailer Scentre Group has agreed to report on how it prevents ‘wage theft’ and ensures safe workloads for its cleaning staff after pressure from the Australasian Centre for Corporate Responsibility, which consequently agreed to withdraw a shareholder resolution at the company’s upcoming AGM.

Federated Hermes has been appointed by Dutch bank ABN AMRO to provide engagement services across its private banking assets, including its investments in equity and fixed income.

BMO Global Asset Management has published its three engagement priorities for 2021. It will seek to engage with companies to address biodiversity loss, support social justice and reduce inequality and push for the adoption of net-zero targets.