ICC issues whistleblowing guidelines

  • 9 July 2008

ICC today issued guidelines on whistleblowing, the first world business organization of its kind to establish a global standard for facilitating the setup of these programmes.

“Fraud remains one of the most problematic issues for business worldwide, no matter the country of operation, industry sector, or size,” said Francois Vincke, Chair of ICC’s Anti-Corruption Commission. “While whistleblowing programs are a highly effective way to flag fraud early on, many companies do not have these schemes in place due to cultural or legal differences. ICC’s guide is the first set of practical tools that takes these factors into account, no matter the jurisdiction.”

According to a 2007 study by consultancy KPMG, 25% of the incidents of fraud uncovered among 360 incidents analyzed came to light thanks to a whistleblowing system put into place by companies. Nevertheless, internal fraud reporting systems are not widespread throughout the world. An Ernst & Young survey of 13 European countries in 2007 showed only 33% of the company respondents said they had a hot line for employees to report incidents of possible fraud.

The ICC guidelines, aimed at helping companies establish and implement internal whistleblowing programs, recommended the following practical steps:

-Create a whistleblowing programme as part of internal integrity practices

-Handle reports early on, in full confidentiality

-Appoint a high-level executive to manage the whistleblowing unit

-Communicate in as many languages as there are countries of operation

-Abide by external legal restrictions

-Allow reporting to be anonymous or disclosed, compulsory or voluntary

-Acknowledge, record and screen all reports

-Enable employees to report incidents without fear of retaliation, discrimination, or disciplinary action

ICC has a long-standing reputation for developing a large array of voluntary rules, guidelines and codes which facilitate business across borders and help spread best practice among companies. ICC Rules of Conduct on Combating Extortion and Bribery is a well-referenced tool which has been in wide circulation for almost four decades and is regularly updated. In addition, ICC’s manual “Fighting Corruption” also gives hands-on advice on whistleblowing, including on how these programmes can be used to detect corruption.