A sales communication pertaining to an investment fund should accurately reflect the extent to which the fund is focused on ESG, as well as the particular aspect(s) of ESG that the fund is focused on.
In staff’s view, a fund should not include statements in its sales communications that indicates that it is focused on ESG unless the fund references ESG in its investment objectives.
A fund that does not reference ESG in its investment objectives but that discloses in its investment strategies prospectus disclosure that it uses an ESG strategy may include statements in its sales communications that accurately reflect the extent to which that strategy is used. However, such funds should not exaggerate the extent of the fund’s focus on ESG in their sales communications.
In contrast, while a fund that does not reference ESG in either its investment objectives or investment strategies may provide factual information about the ESG characteristics of its portfolio (such as fund-level ESG ratings, scores or rankings), it should not include any ESG-related claims about what the fund is trying to achieve. In staff’s view, such sales communications would both conflict with the investment objectives and investment strategies disclosure in the fund’s regulatory offering documents, which do not reference ESG at all, and be misleading.
In general, in staff’s view, a sales communication that does not accurately reflect the extent to which a fund is focused on ESG, as well as the particular aspect(s) of ESG that the fund is focused on, would both be misleading and conflict with the information in the fund’s regulatory offering documents. Examples of such sales communications may include those that do any of the following:
- suggest that a fund is focused on ESG when it is not;
- suggest that a fund is focused on all three components of ESG when it is only focused on one component, such as governance;
- misrepresent the extent and nature of the fund’s use of ESG strategies, including:
- in the case of a fund that has a discretionary or optional screening strategy, stating that the fund uses a negative or exclusionary screening strategy without clearly disclosing that the screening is discretionary or optional; or
- failing to:
- disclose that there is a maximum limit to the fund’s use of those strategies;
- actually use the advertised ESG strategies, including using different types of ESG strategies altogether; or
- prominently disclose material aspects of the ESG strategies.
Staff have noticed that some ESG-Related Funds provide more detail about the fund’s ESG strategies in their sales communications than they do in their prospectuses. Staff remind funds that a prospectus must provide full, true and plain disclosure of all material facts, including the investment strategies of the fund.