- Whistleblowing: An Essential Component of Compliance
- International guidelines prescribe whistleblowing systems
- Structure and introduction of whistleblowing systems
- What different whistleblower models there are
- Protection and legal status of whistleblowers
- Culture change and prevention through whistleblowing More info
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Companies can no longer ignore the issue of whistleblowing
Sunshine, blue sky. Pit (5) and Finn (4) are playing happily in the sandbox. Suddenly, the older boy takes the shovel away from his counterpart. Finn bursts into tears, runs to Pit's mother - and she scolds the little shovel thief. Then Finn gets his plaything back. The four-year-old whistleblower has achieved his goal.
Whistleblowing is basically child's play. But it can be directly applied to corporate compliance. There is only one serious difference from the example just described: When a whistleblower points out wrongdoing in a company, there is significantly more at stake than just a plastic shovel.
Whistleblowing: Using the proverbial whistle to point out wrongdoing
But what is a whistleblower anyway, and why is it called that? In the literal sense, a whistleblower is someone who blows the proverbial whistle to point out a grievance.
The most famous whistleblowing events of the recent past are linked to the names Julian Assange and Edward Snowden. Julian Assange, born in 1971 in Australia, is the founder of Wikileaks. On the disclosure platform, which was launched in 2006, secret documents are repeatedly made available to the general public. It has already uncovered alleged war crimes and cases of corruption. Edward Snowden, born in 1983, is an ex-employee of the US foreign intelligence service CIA. As a whistleblower, he published documents in 2013 that revealed the extent of intelligence agencies' spying practices worldwide.
A look at the definition of whistleblower
But if we now look at another whistleblower definition, which also appears in Security Island's e-learning on whistleblowing, a precise picture emerges: "A whistleblower is a person who discloses activities or actions that indicate wrongdoing, such as illegal, immoral, or dangerous actions in a company, and attempts to remedy it."
As in the following whistleblowing example. Thomas Müller, an employee of a large chemical company, has learned that his colleagues are discharging dangerous toxins unfiltered into a river. With this knowledge, he turns to his supervisor - but the man does not want to hear Müller's tips about grievances. Does he fear adverse effects on his own career? The concerned employee is at a loss. So he turns to the responsible authorities. Weeks pass, nothing happens. Müller sees only one way out: because there is likely to be great public interest in the case, he turns to the media. There, the news hit like a bomb. The company is being reported up and down the country. The damage to the company's image was enormous, and its share price plummeted. Whistleblower Thomas Müller wonders how long it will be before he has to look for a new job. And will he even be able to get a job if potential employers find out what he has done?
Whistleblowing system to deal with incidents
If the chemical company described here had had a functioning whistleblowing system, everyone involved would have been spared a lot of trouble: The damage could have been significantly limited by processing the incident internally. The courts also welcome it when companies clarify grievances internally and, if necessary, report them themselves. Nevertheless, companies often find it difficult to deal with such proceedings.
Whistleblowers also have a difficult time. He may be acting from righteous motives, but he still has to fear being called a traitor, ending up in court himself or losing his job. Therefore, it is enormously important for him to be able to remain anonymous.
European Union protects whistleblowers with directive
To improve the situation of whistleblowers, politicians have become active. For example, the EU wants to better protect whistleblowers with uniform standards. For this reason, the EU Whistleblower Directive came into force in December 2019. It should be emphasized that this is not an EU whistleblowing law, because an EU directive - unlike a regulation, which applies immediately in all member states - must first be transposed into national law by the national parliaments within a set deadline.
The member states were given two years to transpose the provisions contained in the whistleblowing directive into national law. From December 17, 2021, whistleblowers should thus be able to rely on secure channels for passing on information - both to the authorities and within companies.
Whistleblowing: Whistleblower protection law creates need for action
In Germany, the planned law to protect whistleblowers is called the Whistleblower Protection Act. At the latest since the Ministry of Justice presented a corresponding draft, there is a need for action on the part of companies. In the future, they will be required to set up whistleblowing systems. For this to be successful, those responsible must be aware of the issue at an early stage. One way of making them aware of this is the "Whistleblowing" e-learning program from Security Island.
Compliance experience shows that whistleblowing systems have a positive impact on corporate culture. Not only are they an essential tool for early detection of wrongdoing, they also help improve controls and prevent undesirable behavior and cover-up attempts.
Internal and external whistleblower systems in use
Whistleblower systems can be organized both internally and externally. In both cases, it is possible to submit whistleblowing reports digitally or in person. In an internal system, an employee of a company is appointed as a contact person for whistleblowers. However, potential whistleblowers may place less trust in him because they fear the loss of their anonymity. The alternative is an external whistleblower system. This is where an independent ombudsperson comes into play, such as a lawyer, who can better protect the whistleblower and his or her interests.
Deepening your knowledge of whistleblowing with e-learning
As it turns out, whistleblowing is a complex subject area. However, with the preparation and entry into force of the Whistleblower Protection Act, the topic can no longer be ignored. The importance of whistleblowing as an essential part of compliance will continue to grow. With Security Island's "Whistleblowing" e-learning, companies create awareness of this important topic among their employees - and prepare them for future challenges.
This module gives you an efficient overview of why whistleblowing systems play such an important role in compliance, and how whistleblowing can be implemented efficiently:
- International guidelines prescribe whistleblowing
- Structure and introduction of a whistleblower system
- Which whistleblower models are there?
- Whistleblowing processes: -Through which channel can whistleblowers send messages?
- Internal, external, e-mail, hotline, ombudsman
- Internal or external whistleblower system
- Explanation of how to use the system
- Information of all employees about the possible uses of the whistleblower system
- Protection of the anonymity of the whistleblower
- Protection of anonymity in investigations by authorities
Today, companies are no longer able to prevent the reporting of violations unless these reports are channelled internally. Instead, whistleblowers have been defamed and put under pressure in many companies. Employers have tried to cover up the abuses. Without whistleblower channels, the same path is always mapped out: Sooner or later the grievances will come to light and the loss of reputation can no longer be stopped. Companies are therefore well advised not to let abuses arise in the first place through good compliance. The lack of willingness to clarify or to cover up increases the liability problem.
The thought of whistleblowers is traditionally difficult in Germany. With an inglorious story full of denunciation and a strongly outdated view of what the duty of loyalty to the company is, it is rather difficult to understand whistleblowing systems as a modern instrument of prevention and transparency. In other countries, on the other hand, it has long been accepted that whistleblowers play a very important role in clarifying and preventing violations of compliance. In many countries, whistleblower systems are therefore required by law as part of compliance and whistleblowers are specially protected. This legal situation will now also find its way into Germany.
Many supervisors are afraid of the clarification of violations, because they point out by the disclosure to a violation of their supervisory duty or even to a participation. This is a trend that reaches to the very top of the corporate world.