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‘Actions speak louder than words' when it comesto fighting corporate malpractice'

By doing ‘the right thing’ firms can emerge from a crisis with enhanced trust, both internally and externally. Organisations not individuals are responsible for ensuring whistle-blowers feel secure enough to speak up. Robust processes and a commitment to visible action are vital.
A new report, released today by ACCA (the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants), analysed the wide range of ‘speak up arrangements’ used by firms across the world and identified what makes them effective. The findings show that, though difficult, demonstrating commitment to deal with issues and making the outcomes visible pays off.
'It is important that potential whistle-blowers have a clear view of not only the avenues available for speaking up, but also the full path ahead of them as they go through the whistleblowing journey. Simply put, people will only speak up if they believe action will be taken,' says Jo Iwasaki, ACCA’s head of corporate governance.
'Making responses visible makes a great difference. This will help to increase trust in the effectiveness of the speak-up arrangements and the leadership that support them. It separates trusted organisations from those where employees feel that speaking up is futile and risky.'
According to Jo Iwasaki, increased transparency can be an effective way of minimising the reputational damage that can go hand in hand with potential malpractice.
'If your employees feel that wrongdoing will be dealt with promptly and fairly, they are far less likely to make the issue a public one. Many of the great reputational disasters of recent years have been made worse by attempts to sweep the issue under the carpet. A far better approach is to develop and implement robust and consistent response systems with clear and coordinated follow-up activities.'
Making the tough decision to bring in outside help should also be considered says Iwasaki.
'It is worth considering the use of an external independent channel that sits alongside your internal conduits. It may feel counter-intuitive to set up channels that are external and possibly more formal when you are trying to build trust internally. However, if people use independent external channels and have a positive experience, the trust developed from the experience can transfer to other, including internal, channels that they may use in the future.'
According to lead researcher, Dr Wim Vandekerckhove, principal lecturer at the University of Greenwich, the effectiveness of a speak-up arrangement depends on the responsiveness of the organisation. 
'Sometimes it is very difficult for organisations to respond to certain concerns raised by employees, in particular when the concern was raised anonymously or when a complex investigation is required. That is why it is important for organisations to deliberately seek opportunities where responding can go beyond the standard and vague 'thank you, we're looking into this'. We have come across some good examples of this in our research, where responses to employee concerns have been communicated company-wide, or when the person raising the concern was part of the team developing a solution.'
The report was backed up by a global research project that examined the opportunities, challenges and best practices associated with different types of speak-up arrangements, both internal and external, in a variety of organisational settings. Qualitative research was undertaken with people operating the speak-up arrangements in a health care organisation (an NHS Trust in the UK), a multinational bank, a multinational engineering company, and a central government in South East Asia.

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FOR MEDIA ENQUIRIES, CONTACT:

Louis Clark, ACCA Newsroom
T: +44 (0)20 7059 5622 
Twitter @ACCANews
Notes to Editors
About ACCA
ACCA (the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants) is the global body for professional accountants. It offers business-relevant, first-choice qualifications to people of application, ability and ambition around the world who seek a rewarding career in accountancy, finance and management. 
ACCA supports its 178,000 members and 455,000 students in 181 countries, helping them to develop successful careers in accounting and business, with the skills required by employers. ACCA works through a network of 95 offices and centres and more than 7,110 Approved Employers worldwide, who provide high standards of employee learning and development. Through its public interest remit, ACCA promotes appropriate regulation of accounting and conducts relevant research to ensure accountancy continues to grow in reputation and influence. 
Founded in 1904, ACCA has consistently held unique core values: opportunity, diversity, innovation, integrity and accountability. It believes that accountants bring value to economies in all stages of development and seek to develop capacity in the profession and encourage the adoption of global standards. ACCA’s core values are aligned to the needs of employers in all sectors and it ensures that through its range of qualifications, it prepares accountants for business. ACCA seeks to open up the profession to people of all backgrounds and remove artificial barriers, innovating its qualifications and delivery to meet the diverse needs of trainee professionals and their employers.