Tuesday, July 13, 2021

OECD Guidelines vs Whistleblowers

Read my contribution to the "public consultation" for the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises

The Board of Directors is the highest authority in the company and composed by the representatives of the Shareholders. Thus, the members of the Board dictate to the executives the guidelines of    conducting business. Besides, they are the personification of “Corporate Governance” and, as if that wasn’t enough, they must fulfill the role of “Guardian of Ethics”, holding in their right hand the “Code of Ethics”!

The Code of Ethics is the company’s “Constitution”, the “Magna Carta”. Because it is the “Corporate Higher Law”, the Code of Ethics is the company’s main instrument of “government”. However, by publishing the Code of Ethics in the corporate website, the company makes its ethical, social and environment commitments “publicly known”, claiming to the market exactly “how” the company will conduct its business. Besides, the Code of Ethics “motivates” the Stakeholders, especially the employees, to “report” to the “Complaint Channel” any “nonconformities” regarding the code or professional “conduct deviations”, that is, the words and the spirit of the Code of Ethics has a “value” from the fabric floor to the Board and, especially, the CEO, who is the main example to be followed within the corporate walls. As if this wasn’t enough, the Code of Ethics guarantees to the whistleblowers “protection” against any kind of “retaliation”. However, the Code of Ethics results in reciprocal “rights” and “duties”!

Global research demonstrates that most of the complaints reported to the Complaint Channels” are from “employees”. So the whistleblowers are the companies’ main “allies” because, by making a complaint, the whistleblower is trying to conserver the name, the image, the reputation and the corporate patrimony. This way, the whistleblowers, by doing what is right, are contributing to the success and the continuity of business!

Unfortunately, what we observe in the global market is that many whistleblowers are being silenced and having their careers and reputations buried around the world by companies that don’t respect their Codes of Ethics, by employees and executives who steal corporate coffers and the Board that pretends nothing happens.

For all the reasons mentioned above, it would be of great importance if OECD includes in the “OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises” a special highlight for themes involving “Ethics & Compliance Programs”, especially about its main tools: the “Code of Ethics” and “Complaint Channels”, having as a main goal the improvement of corporate actions and attention regarding “protection of whistleblowers”.

As a result, multinational companies would actually be globally acting based on the most important pillars of RBC (Responsible Business Conduct): “Ethics, Integrity and Compliance”!

Access the OECD public consultation in this LINK.

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