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ICC Updates Whistleblowing Guidelines

Protect Business Support Executive, Grace Wilkin, responds to the ICC’s updated whistleblowing guidelines, highlighting the key improvements.

The ICC (International Chamber of Commerce) has just released its updated Guidelines on Whistleblowing for organisations. These come as part of the ICC’s initiative to fight corruption across all sectors.  

These guidelines are an updated version of the 2005 Rules of Conduct on Combating Extortion and Bribery, which recognised the important and unique function that whistleblowing serves within the objectives. 

The ICC suggests that encouraging whistleblowing concerns is part of a healthy Ethics and Compliance programme, as well as a robust – and crucially trusted – whistleblowing management system. This will form part of any sound risk management system, as concerns will be raised and dealt with, and staff looked after.  

Here at Protect, we couldn’t agree more. Ensuring that employees feel supported and heard is not just a matter for risk assessment, but also vital to the maintenance of a happy workforce. 

The ICC guidelines urges its members to have a robust whistleblowing management system, with clear reporting channels, where confidentiality is maintained to ensure the trust of employees. The reporting of wrongdoing, and clear channels to do this through, should be handled carefully by designated personnel. These persons should be given a large degree of autonomy, to maintain impartiality of an investigation, and should report to the highest echelons within an organisation.  

Having a fantastic system and process is all very well, but this cannot exist in isolation. The ‘speak up’ culture and confidence in this system needs to be there, and to do this, the arrangements and assurances (of confidentiality and non-retaliation) must be communicated and demonstrated to staff. The Guidelines suggest that these communications should ‘foster a sense of organisational justice’. 

Finally, the ICC recommends ‘commissioning periodic audits of the effectiveness of the whistleblowing management system’, which is where Protect can aid organisations. We have developed a unique whistleblowing Benchmark, a simple yet comprehensive diagnostic tool that analyses the entirety of your whistleblowing arrangements, identifying areas of achievement and importantly, where you need to improve. This is a set of 34 standards, that is the golden criteria of whistleblowing practice, covering Governance, Engagement and Operations. Over 100 organisations have benefitted from this tool – as can yours. 

 “The Benchmark allowed us to assess our whistleblowing arrangements against the industry, helping to understand where we needed to focus our attention. Protect also offered valuable advice on specific actions we could take to enhance our approach in these areas.” – Head of Whistleblowing Governance, financial services organisation. 

Reviewing your whistleblowing set up will create transparency and accountability, as well as helping to maintain the trust stakeholders in an Enterprise’s governance and therefore shareholder value.  

These Guidelines from the ICC and using the Whistleblowing Benchmark are a great place to start, if organisations are thinking of updating their whistleblowing framework and come as a reminder that best practice in this area is never stationary, but always something to be working on and improving.