Internal Whistleblowing Mechanisms

By speaking out against wrongdoing such as corruption, fraud, mismanagement and illegal or hazardous activities, whistleblowers play a crucial role in protecting the public interest by ensuring that threats to financial integrity, the environment, public health and safety, human rights and the rule of law do not go unchecked. 

As well as helping to serve the public interest, whistleblowing channels are in the best interests of organisations too, as whistleblowers can alert senior management to potential or actual misconduct and prevent further damage and future wrongdoing. From the employer’s perspective, fostering an environment in which employees feel comfortable about raising concerns internally has proven to be an effective safeguard against risks such as financial loss, legal action and reputational damage[1].

Increasingly, the question for organisations across the public, private and non-profit sectors is not whether whistleblowing mechanisms are needed but how to ensure that they are designed, implemented and maintained effectively.

An organisation looking to answer this question can find information in a number of publicly available best practice guides and standards, issued by governments, institutions, commercial actors, NGOs and law firms, among others. Advice is also available from organisations specialised in providing whistleblowing services, both commercially and on a pro-bono basis. Many of these resources are referenced in this topic guide.

Use of term "whistleblowing"

A number of best practice guides and international actors use the term “whistleblowing” when referring to internal reporting, including the 2013 Transparency International international principles for whistleblower legislation, 2011 OECD guidelines for multinational enterprises and the British Standards Institute’s 2008 whistleblowing arrangements code of practice. However, given the negative connotations that the word “whistleblowing” can conjure, many guidelines instead use terms such as “speaking up”, “raising concerns” or making a “disclosure”. In some instances, guidelines covering “organisational compliance” will also have advice on whistleblowing mechanisms. It is worth noting that a disclosure and a complaint are different: a disclosure is defined as “provision of information as required under law or in good faith, regarding activities of a private individual, public official, company or organisation”[2] whereas a complaint (within the context of whistleblowing) would be made, for example, about retaliation a whistleblower faces.


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