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How to review and test your whistleblowing programme according to published best-practice standards

In late 2021, the International Organisation for Standardization (ISO) formally enacted the International Standard ISO 37002 – Whistleblowing Management Systems – Guidelines (ISO Whistleblowing Guidelines). The ISO Whistleblowing Guidelines are now available and you are able to get a copy from the ISO website in your country for a small fee.

The ISO Whistleblowing Guidelines are the first comprehensive guide for companies operating whistleblowing management systems. If your programme meets the ISO Whistleblowing Guidelines in all respects you have a leading-edge system that meets the best international standards and you should feel very comfortable that it is fit for purpose.

In ISO speak. 'guidelines' cannot be certified by an accredited body as having been met. There is currently no certification process for guidelines, although that may change at some stage in the future. What you can do, however, is engage a company to conduct a review and audit of your programme against the ISO Whistleblowing Guidelines to give you some comfort of compliance. Of course, it is always best to engage a reputable compliance expert that understands the ISO Standards and process. Our sister company, ETHIC Intelligence, offers this service to clients globally.

What do the ISO Whistleblowing Guidelines actually intend to do?

The ISO Whistleblowing Guidelines provide advice to organisations for establishing, implementing, maintaining and improving a whistleblowing management system, with the following outcomes:Potential outcomes of implementing the ISO Whistleblower Guidelines

The ISO Whistleblowing Guidelines assist organisations to create whistleblowing management systems based on the principles of trust, impartiality and protection. The guidelines are adaptable, and their use will vary with the size, nature, complexity and jurisdiction of the organisation’s activities. The ISO Whistleblowing Guidelines can assist an organisation to improve its existing whistleblowing policy and procedures, or to comply with applicable whistleblowing legislation.

How different is this to other ISO standards and guidelines that address compliance issues?

The ISO Whistleblowing Guidelines use the ‘harmonised structure’ (i.e. clause sequence, common text and common terminology) developed by ISO to improve alignment among international standards for management systems. So, if you are familiar with the anti-bribery management standard (ISO 37001), for example, these guidelines will be very easy to understand. The similar format, sections, definitions and layout really make it easier for those familiar with the ISO structure.

What are the ISO Whistleblowing Guidelines intended to address?

The ISO Whistleblowing Guidelines give principles for establishing, implementing and maintaining an effective whistleblowing management system based on the principles of trust, impartiality and protection in the following four steps:

> receiving reports of wrongdoing
> assessing reports of wrongdoing
> addressing reports of wrongdoing
> concluding whistleblowing cases.

The ISO Whistleblowing Guidelines are generic and intended to be applicable to all organisations, regardless of type, size and nature of activities, and whether in the public, private or not-for-profit sector. You can easily adjust the programme that you are building based on your organisation’s needs.

How to learn more

The ISO Whistleblowing Guidelines are now available to purchase from the ISO stores in each country. Check the ISO website for further details.

Our sister company, ETHIC Intelligence, is offering courses on the ISO Whistleblowing Guidelines, including how to implement them in your programme. ETHIC Intelligence will also be offering solutions for companies to test their programmes against the ISO Whistleblowing Guidelines and support annual check-ups and validation. Go to www.ethic-intelligence.com for further details.

If you are interested in building your programme from scratch, or for consultative advice on the ISO Whistleblowing Guidelines, please contact us here.

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