• Only 6% of Australian consumers understand ESG or sustainable investing.
  • Almost half (48%) agree that ESG or sustainability investment claims are confusing. 
  • Almost two in three (58%) don’t know how to compare different ESG options.
  • CFS supports efforts by industry, regulators and Government to promote consistency and provide a reasonable basis in labelling products. 

Thursday 9 November New research from Colonial First State (CFS) has found Australian consumers are confused by sustainability claims and can’t differentiate between different ESG investment options.


The research commissioned by CFS surveyed 1,496 Australians and found that less than a third (29%) of consumers are aware of ESG or sustainable investing.  Only 6% are sure they understand it. 


At the heart of the issue is the lack of agreed definitions across the industry and the broader economy, the subjectivity of the underlying ESG considerations and the inherent trade-offs between them. 


Less than one in 10 (9%) of respondents were confident in their understanding of the differences between a ‘sustainable fund’ and an ‘impact fund’. 


Kelly Power, CEO of Superannuation at CFS, said recognising that customers have different objectives, values and preferences when it comes to how they invest their retirement savings is critical.


“That is why we offer a wide range of investment options, so that members can invest their savings in a way that is most aligned to their personal preferences,” Ms Power said.


“In offering investment choice, we recognise the divergent views about what ESG means, particularly when it comes to investing. This confusion is not helped by the lack of consistent terminology and jargon,” she said. 


The research identified low levels of understanding among consumers when it comes to common industry buzzwords. Around half of consumers don’t understand the term ‘net zero’ (50%) or ‘carbon offset’ (43%). 


These findings highlight the need for industry, regulators and Government to continue to work together in the development of consistent consumer labelling standards that can support consumers making more informed decisions and also provide a reasonable basis for superannuation and investment funds to label products.  


CFS was pleased to see that the Government’s recently released Sustainable Finance Strategy recognises the need to improve sustainability labelling for investment products.  CFS will engage during the consultation to support the objectives of the Strategy.


CFS recently published a Responsible investing glossary to help investors understand some common terminology. 


CFS is also working with financial advisers to support them in their discussions with clients on ESG and will be looking to provide them with dedicated tools to support them in these discussions.


CFS has 15 sustainable funds available on its FirstChoice platform, including its own multi-manager sustainable growth fund, Thrive+. 


The other 14 sustainable funds are:
  1. Pendal Wholesale Sustainable Balanced
  2. Affirmative Wholesale Global Impact Bond
  3. Pendal Wholesale Sustainable Australian Fixed Interest
  4. Alphinity Wholesale Sustainable Share
  5. Ausbil Wholesale Active Sustainable Equity
  6. Pendal Wholesale Sustainable Australian Share
  7. Acadian Wholesale Sustainable Global Equity
  8. AXA IM Wholesale Sustainable Equity
  9. Baillie Gifford Wholesale Sustainable Growth
  10. Nanuk Wholesale New World
  11. Stewart Investors Wholesale Worldwide Leaders Sustainability
  12. Stewart Investors Wholesale Worldwide Sustainability
  13. Stewart Investors Wholesale Global Emerging Markets Leaders Sustainability
  14. Acadian Wholesale Geared Sustainable Global Equity

CFS commissioned market researcher Nature to survey 1,496 Australians aged 16 to 89 in July 2023 about their knowledge of sustainable investing. All respondents currently have either superannuation, investments, and/or a pension or annuity. The sample was nationally representative on age, gender and state.


CFS encourages anyone open to financial advice to visit the CFS Find an adviser site and take the first step to accessing a financial adviser to help identify and achieve their financial goals. 

Media enquiries

James Mitchell 

Senior Manager External Communications, Colonial First State

+61 413 619 034

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About Colonial First State

This media release is issued by Superannuation and Investments HoldCo Pty Limited ABN 64 644 660 882 (Colonial First State or CFS). The CFS group includes Colonial First State Investments Limited ABN 98 002 348 352, AFSL 232468 (CFSIL) and Avanteos Investments Limited ABN 20 096 259 979, AFSL 245531 (AIL). CFS is majority owned by an affiliate of Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co. L.P. (KKR), with the Commonwealth Bank of Australia ABN 48 123 123 124 AFSL 234945 (CBA) holding a significant minority interest. This information is current as at 01 August 2023 and may be subject to change.