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Illustration by iStock, Security Management

Report Finds 2023 Brought More Whistleblowing Reports Than Ever

In the 2024 Whistleblowing and Incident Management Benchmark Report, findings show that more reports were filed in 2023 than ever before in Europe, North America, and South America.

Navex—a governance, risk, and compliance software firm—collected data on whistleblowing and how organizations handle employees reporting an incident from 1.86 million incident reports from 3,784 companies from all over the world. The sectors most prevalent in these reports included administrative and support services, finance and insurance, food services and drinking places, healthcare and social assistance, transportation and warehousing, and retail.

Navex received reports from Asia-Pacific, Europe, North America, and South America.

The report surfaced a variety of interesting findings:

  • Higher rates of internal reporting can result in better business outcomes. “The business case for offering a robust internal reporting program transcends regulatory expectations,” the report said.

  • Whistleblower programs can deliver unexpected benefits.
    • These reports can identify critical issues, giving an organization the opportunity to address and respond to something “that might otherwise damage the organization,” the report said.
    • An internal reporting system also gives organizations the chance to prove to whistleblowers and staff that their voices carry weight, building trust and culture.

  • European Union member nations showed a median increase in reports.
    • The Whistleblowing and Incident Management Benchmark Report noted that this increase may be linked to the implementation of the EU’s Whistleblower Protection Directive, which requires many organizations to implement internal reporting systems. The one exception to this was the United Kingdom, which, because it left the EU, is not subject to the directive.
    • “Organizations based in Europe saw median reports per 100 employees increase from 0.53 to 0.63 comparing 2022 and 2023, while in the UK, those values decreased from 0.53 to 0.43,” the report said.

  • Reports in some areas increased more than others. 
    • South America recorded the largest increase in year-over-year in median reports per 100 employees from 2.54 to 3.59, according to the Benchmark Report.
    • North American organizations also demonstrated an increase from 1.64 to 1.78 in median reports per 100 employees.

  • However, retaliation also increased globally when comparing 2022 to 2023.
    • Compared to other risk types, the risk of retaliation remains minimal (calculated at 0.48 percent to 1.51 percent across organizations’ headquarters and regional facilities), the overall increase from 2022 in the frequency of retaliation occurring is still considered a “major threat” to the trust that employees place in an internal reporting program.
    • “Retaliation against reporters—or the perception that it s occurring or tolerated—is the archnemesis of an internal reporting program,” the report said.
    • Unfortunately, when staff does not feel that they can safely speak up within an organization for fear of retribution, they may instead turn to an external regulator. Bringing in an external entity can leave both the reporter and the organization open to “punitive organizational impacts in addition to the need to address the original misconduct.”
    • Another damaging outcome of retaliation is that misconduct might go entirely unreported, which could continue to harm the organization and its culture.
    • Besides retaliation, the next biggest disincentive for employees to use internal reporting systems is the impression or belief that the organization will not take the report seriously.

  • Employment separation, which by the report’s standards is the most punitive action an organization can take, is the most common result of a report in North America. The percentages below are based on the frequency of separation occurring in the region where an organization’s headquarters is located.
    • North America: 17.7 percent
    • Europe: 15.1 percent
    • APAC: 14.8 percent
    • South America: 7.1 percent