Sweden: Building Trust Through Whistleblowing. From Suspected To Expected And Protected

Last Updated: 10 April 2019
Article by Gunilla Hadders
Most Read Contributor in Sweden, July 2019

In WhistleB's recent survey of our customers, some 50% of the responses stated that building trust was the main benefit of having a secure, online whistleblowing system in place. This one response confirms a trend I've noted of late, trust is moving up the organisational agenda. As trust moves up, the spotlight is once again being shone on behaviours that deteriorate trust as well as actions and tools that help in protecting or building trust in organisations, including whistleblowing.

In this article we reflect on how it is that whistleblowing has become an accepted tool for combatting some of the greatest threats to organisational trust. These threats include corruption, fraud, discrimination, unsafe workplaces and environmental crime... the very issues that WhistleB helps customers to manage, day in, day out.

Suspected – Whistleblowing not historically a solution for building trust

Let me take you back to 2001 or so. Remember the high-profile corporate collapses and the subsequent crumbling of public trust in the corporate world? Governments became focused on re-building trust in organisations through regulation, and new laws were enacted such as Sarbanes-Oxley in the US. In hindsight, what is interesting for me is that even though a number of brave whistleblowers were pivotal in bringing the world's attention to widespread corporate malpractice, whistleblowing was nonetheless viewed sceptically and was not generally held up as a feasible part of the building trust solution.

Let's fast-forward to 2008 and the global financial crisis. As the world was once again re-awakened to a need for a crackdown on corporate corruption, whistleblowing began to be recognised as a viable option for early detection of corporate misconduct, with a focus on financial irregularities. Whistleblowing thus became somewhat more formalised, but most often in the form of a telephone hotline for receiving "tips".

Nonetheless, whistleblowers were still viewed with suspicion. Regulations protecting their rights were close to non-existent and whistleblowers had a hard time remaining anonymous.

Even then, this was something Karin and I wanted to change. That's why we built the WhistleB whistleblowing system differently – online, secure, robust and user-friendly, for progressive organisations that were serious about building trust and confidence in the workplace. And now attitudes are quickly changing as our recent customer study shows –whistleblowing is valuable in building trust.

Protected – regulations help in building trust in whistleblowing

What is it that has helped to build trust in whistleblowing? We have our opinions, based on years of experience helping customers with whistleblowing and influencing the market.

1. Anti-corruption – a key whistleblowing issue on the global agenda, for companies, governments and organisations.

For example United Nations Global Compact referred to the as the world's largest corporate sustainability initiative, the UN Global Compact is a call to companies to align strategies and operations with universal principles on human rights, labour, the environment and anti-corruption, and take actions that advance societal goals. The initiative aims to drive business awareness and action in support of achieving the UN's Sustainable Development Goals by 2030. While the Global Compact does not have a focus on whistleblowing per se, it does focus on the very risks that whistleblowing is intended to address. As a result, the UN Global Compact has placed issues that are pertinent to whistleblowing high up on the agendas of many governments and businesses, and paved the way for advancing and building trust in whistleblowing systems.

2. Perception of whistleblowers is changing.

Earlier this year, we published a post called The Whistleblower Christopher Wylie – a new hero is born. In that, we explain that we believe we are seeing a more positive attitude to whistleblowers and whistleblowing. One example is Christopher Wylie, the whistleblower from Cambridge Analytica who revealed that Facebook had leaked user information from 87 million accounts. He was heralded a hero in the media, and subsequently recruited by the clothing giant H&M for a role that includes developing ethical Artificial Intelligence, AI. This change in perception is largely thanks to media depiction of whistleblowers in the wake of the #metoo campaign in 2018.

3. Whistleblowing legitimised by national and regional laws.

At the same time, increasing regulation that requires organisations to have whistleblowing systems in place, or regulation that protects the rights of whistleblowers, or regulations that forbid certain behaviours are all likely contributing factors to the rise in interest in whistleblowing. As recently as March, the European Parliament and the Member States reached a provisional agreement on new rules that will guarantee a high level of protection for whistleblowers who report breaches of EU law. The new rules are intended to help tackle fraud, corruption, corporate tax avoidance and damage to people's health and the environment.

New International Standards on whistleblowing are currently in progress, which are an important step in agreeing on a common standard for building trust in whistleblowing systems.

The EU's General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) has made organisations aware of the importance of protecting the personal data that they process. The data held in whistleblowing systems is very sensitive in nature and must have adequate security to enable proper data privacy. The fact that online whistleblowing systems can be made so much more secure than solutions such as e-mail and telephony has helped in building trust in such systems.

These are just a few examples of the many new sets of laws that are both building trust in the role of whistleblowing, and driving the market as organisational leaders are mandated to implement professional, secure, and above all, trusted whistleblowing systems.

Expected – Whistleblowing is a hygiene factor for building trust in an organisation

And this more whistleblowing-friendly context is the one in which organisations now operate. Forward-thinking organisations, such as our customers, are focused on doing business ethically, and have already embraced whistleblowing as an essential tool for building trust.

In what ways does a whistleblowing system contribute to trust? According to the responses in our customer study, a secure whistleblowing system helps to build trust in an organisation's brand, gain trust from external parties due to greater transparency, and importantly generate trust amongst employees that they work for an organisation that is serious about its Code of Conduct.

We will focus on building trust amongst employees. One of our customers said the following:

"This is a good tool to promote good corporate culture where people can see that their voice is heard and actions are taken accordingly."

Most people want to work in a workplace where they know they are safe, and where ethics are taken seriously. While leaders may communicate plenty about the organisational Code of Conduct and culture (and they should), a whistleblower system makes things more tangible for employees. The more senior management and the board advocate the possibility of whistleblowing and underline its value for the organisation, the more employees understand that this is an organisation that is serious about following up on the Code of Conduct, and that everybody's everyday actions either erode or build trust.

The technical perspective is also important in building trust and confidence in the workplace. The potential information that whistleblower reports contain can be invaluable to leaders, but very sensitive, and impossible to obtain early without the whistleblower. However, many potential whistleblowers fear the repercussions of speaking up, and fear that their concern will not be taken seriously. Consequently, if they do not have confidence in the system keeping their identities safe, and the case being processed appropriately, then they will not dare to report the necessary information. This is where the technical and security aspects of the system can build that trust through making the whistleblower technically untraceable. Leaders need to describe the strict data security and other technical and privacy measures embedded within the system, and make it clear that employees may report anonymously and remain anonymous throughout any dialogue and investigation.

There should be no doubt that both the person and the data are protected, in compliance with all applicable regulations. This is also a reassurance for the organisational leaders too. They need to be confident that a whistleblowing system will help them reduce the compliance risks of processing whistleblowing data.

Finally, a whistleblowing system builds trust on the part of external stakeholders, customers, suppliers, board members or investors, as it indicates that the organisation is serious about ethical business and being transparent. It illustrates just one concrete way that the organisation is prepared to act on important global issues such as corruption and discrimination.

Our mission is to continue to build greater trust in whistleblowing systems

While we are proud of the fantastic work that our customers are doing, we are aware that our customers so far have been the more progressive, forward-thinking kind of organisation. There are still plenty of companies across all sectors that are only at the beginning of their journeys to become more sustainable, ethical businesses, and have yet to understand how openness to whistleblowing can help them in building trust.

This is why we will focus on spreading good examples over the coming year, on helping organisations to learn from each other, on sharing our experience and on driving standards that share best practices for whistleblowing. As part of this, WhistleB has recently signed the UN Global Compact to indicate our commitment to more sustainable business. Ethical, sustainable business has always been our guiding light; it is our very essence and what we help customers work towards on a daily basis. However, there is always room for improvement and being part of the UN Global Compact is a reminder for us to check that we are doing all we can towards building trust in the world's organisations. It is also a way for us to encourage others to join in for more sustainable, trusted and still profitable business.

Whistleblowers have gained in status, some of them reaching top positions. New laws are emerging to protect whistleblowers. Companies are beginning to understand how encouraging and safeguarding employees and external stakeholders who dare to raise a concern about something they suspect is vital for retaining or building trust in their brand. Yes, building trust is slowly making its way up the agenda, and whistleblowing is now right by its side to help.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on Mondaq.com.

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Events from this Firm
21 Aug 2019, Webinar, Stockholm, Sweden

EU:s direktiv kan ses som ett svar på en global mega-trend för främjande av transparens. Vilka krav ställer den nya lagen? Och vad är avgörande för en trovärdig hantering av visselblåsarärenden?

Similar Articles
Relevancy Powered by MondaqAI
Some comments from our readers…
“The articles are extremely timely and highly applicable”
“I often find critical information not available elsewhere”
“As in-house counsel, Mondaq’s service is of great value”

Related Topics
Similar Articles
Relevancy Powered by MondaqAI
Related Articles
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Mondaq Free Registration
Gain access to Mondaq global archive of over 375,000 articles covering 200 countries with a personalised News Alert and automatic login on this device.
Mondaq News Alert (some suggested topics and region)
Select Topics
Registration (please scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions

Mondaq.com (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of www.mondaq.com

To Use Mondaq.com you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.


The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.


Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions