This week sees the release of the fourth WhistleB annual customer study on organisational whistleblowing. Through the survey, we ask our customers questions related to how they use their whistleblowing system and the outcomes that arise from having a secure, digital whistleblowing system in place.
Whistleblowing systems create trust
We have titled this year’s report “Whistleblowing: a trusted channel in the organisational ethics toolkit” because this is one of the most overwhelming findings. Some 50% of the responses stated that building trust was the main benefit of having a whistleblowing system in place. While the key purpose of any whistleblowing system is to enable companies to detect and act on misconduct before it causes too much financial and reputational damage, the survey indicates clearly that our customers are benefitting from the wider impact of being open to whistleblowing. Namely, that together with the rest of the organisation’s ethics work, a whistleblowing system helps to build trust in the organisation as it underlines a commitment to transparency and openness.
How is this so? Being open to whistleblowing indicates that an organisation’s leaders are willing to listen to concerns about acts that breach the ethical guidelines, and it shows that they are committed to act. A secure and user-friendly whistleblowing system enables the “listening”, and a thorough and documented work process for case investigation underpins the “acting.”
The number of whistleblowing reports received remains high
This was another key finding. The steep upward trend in the total number of reports received by organisations continues for the second year in a row. In terms of the sectors that receive the highest number of reports, customer responses indicate that our finance and banking customers are at the top.
We believe that an important contributing factor to the overall increase in the number of reports is the more positive attitude to whistleblowers and whistleblowing. One example is Christopher Wylie, the whistleblower from Cambridge Analytica who revealed that Facebook had leaked user information from 87 million accounts. Not only was he heralded a hero in the media, but he was subsequently recruited by the clothing giant H&M for a role that includes developing ethical Artificial Intelligence, AI. Media depiction of whistleblowers, increasing regulation that requires organisations to have such systems in place and regulation that protects the rights of whistleblowers are all likely contributing factors to this change in how whistleblowers are viewed.
Whistleblowing systems being opened to external stakeholders
Last year, we started to see a growing number of organisations opening up their whistleblowing services to external stakeholders. This trend has continued, with results from this year’s survey showing that 50% of organisations now open up their systems to external parties, such as customers and suppliers. This is significant as it indicates a more advanced application of the whistleblowing system by our customers.
How can organisations build trust in the whistleblowing system?
Our customers choose to implement a whistleblowing system to access sensitive, hard-to-reach information that can help them minimise business risks. But to report such information, a potential whistleblower needs to trust the system. So we also ask our customers what they see as the most important factors for building that trust. The top responses this year were:
- Ensuring the right team and a thorough, good process is in place for handling reports
- Having a secure system that enables anonymity for the whistleblower
- Communication about the purpose of the system