Two Australian pension funds — including one of the largest — have removed dozens of pages of ESG risk disclosures from their websites to review the accuracy and reliability of the data as regulators crack down on the integrity of green claims.
UniSuper has removed a 16-page section from a climate risk report first published in September, after discovering what it called "anomalies." The deleted pages provided estimated calculations of the impact of emissions across the various strategies that its 620,000 members invest in.
Smaller rival Active Super has taken down its 70-page online Responsible Investment Report showing how its investments were assessed for the "environmental, social and governance risk they pose to the world."
Australia's A$3.4 trillion ($2.2 trillion) pensions industry is under mounting pressure to back up environmental claims, especially as it continues to be a key backer of the nation's fossil fuel companies. Climate pledges are in the sights of watchdogs globally as investors commit to ambitious net-zero targets. The Australian Securities and Investments Commission last week said it was suing a pension fund over greenwashing claims in its first such court action.
A UniSuper spokesman said the A$115 billion fund amended its climate report after an external party notified it of errors in data it had provided, mainly due to currency conversion issues. It plans to republish an updated version "in the coming weeks" once the data is assured.
"Importantly, UniSuper remains committed to alignment with the Paris goals, and our advocacy and engagement on this issue continues," the spokesman said.
A spokesman for A$14 billion Active Super said the fund had noted the increased regulatory focus on ESG disclosures and was "currently undertaking a process to review all ESG-related materials on our website," adding that it uses a variety of external and internal sources for data.
Investor activist group Market Forces alerted Bloomberg to the alterations after spotting the UniSuper revision last month, and the Active Super deletion last week.
Climate issues are an increasing concern for Australian workers, whose employers must pay 10.5% of their salaries into pension accounts, known as superannuation. UniSuper and Active Super are among the funds that have voluntarily published climate risk reports. The disclosures can help workers decide which superannuation fund they will choose to manage their savings for retirement.
Australia's government is consulting on the introduction of climate-related financial disclosure standards, an idea that appears to be gaining broader support in the investor community. The finance sector currently uses a mixture of in-house and external sources for the collection and aggregation of emissions data.
"Without climate-related financial disclosure standards, superannuation trustees are faced with the challenge of ensuring that any climate-related financial data is consistently determined and reliable," said Jonathan Steffanoni, Managing Partner at Melbourne-based QMV Legal, adding that enforceable standards would help provide more reliable data for trustees to calculate their carbon footprint and any associated risks.