On 25 August, 2022, the Australasian Centre for Corporate Responsibility (“ACCR”) expanded its case against the Australian gas company, Santos Ltd. (“Santos”), with new and more detailed allegations around greenwashing.
Last year, ACCR filed a consumer protection lawsuit with the Federal Court of Australia regarding certain misleading or deceptive statements Santos made relating to its clean energy claims and net-zero representations in the 2020 Annual Report (which we reported here). This was the first lawsuit in the world challenging the veracity of a company’s net-zero emissions target, and it raises important questions about the viability of carbon capture and storage and the environmental impacts of hydrogen as an alternative energy source to gas companies.
Following disclosure in the discovery process of the lawsuit, the Environmental Defenders Office (“EDO”), on behalf of ACCR, filed to expand the case to include alleged greenwashing in Santos’ 2020 Investor Day Briefing and 2021 Climate Change Report. The EDO also added allegations regarding blue hydrogen and net zero plan representations, and asserts such representations lacked reasonable basis and sufficient detail to be put into the market.
ACCR’s case is an example of activists commencing litigation to bring pressure to bear on corporates and their climate-related commitments and public disclosures. As corporates globally have increasingly made public claims regarding their own clean energy and zero emission targets, the progress of this case will continue to be closely followed well beyond Australia’s shores.