December 11, 2020

Volvo Ethics Chief Endorses Ombuds as Safeguard for European Whistleblowers

The latest issue of Compliance Week includes an editorial by Cédric Dubar, the Chief Compliance and Ethics Officer for Volvo Corp: "Making the case for companies to create ‘Ombuds’ function to meet EU whistleblower rules." Dubar asserts that an Ombuds can help organizations comply with the European Union's Whistleblower Protection Directive enacted last fall. He specifically references the IOA standards:

The roles and responsibilities of the Ombuds function can differ widely, depending on the nature, history, and governance of the organization, but independence and neutrality are key characteristics of the role. According to the International Ombudsman Association, an Ombudsman is “a designated neutral who is appointed or employed by an organization to facilitate the informal resolution of concerns of employees, managers, students and, sometimes, external clients of the organization.” 
In Europe, this function is not widely used. Yet, an Ombuds function would certainly allow organizations to answer the requirement under the Directive to appoint “independent” and “impartial” personnel to receive and follow up on reports from whistleblowers. 

In addition, the creation of an Ombuds function that is independent and neutral (in both appearance and fact) would allow an organization to foster its speak-up culture by creating more trust in the system, as it would provide a neutral, independent, legitimate, and safe point of contact where stakeholders can raise concerns, be heard, and be given guidance in order to understand their options.
The article is a careful and thorough analysis of how an Ombuds is established and the benefits that flow to the organization, especially in the European context. It could be an important tool for the future international expansion of the profession. (Compliance Week.)

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