French companies are now required to implement whistleblowing procedures since the “transparency, anti-corruption and economic modernization” law, more commonly known as Sapin II, came into force on 9 December 2016.

The scope of the law is broad and covers a large part of French companies’ daily business. Nevertheless, the focus on the fight against corruption and clarifying the status of whistleblowers is done from the first articles. The latter is an essential aspect of the procedure as whistleblowers now have new rights and their roles have been clarified. Moreover, the practical frameworks are clearly defined by French Data Protection Agency (CNIL) in the “Unique authorization” AU-004 published on 22 June 2017.

Implementing Whistleblowing Procedures is New in the French Business Landscape

The concept of collective and individual responsibility on a variety of issues, such as, corruption and unethical behaviour is directly influenced by American and British practices that have been long been established.

We can go as far back as the 7th century, in the county of Kent in England, to find the first records of a whistleblowing law enforced, where King Wihtred put in place the first known law where a person could issue a case.

More recent examples have come mainly from the US where whistleblowers have been given special rights by implementing a wide variety of laws across several decades.

France, however, has a complicated history with whistleblowing as it can be perceived as denunciation, which has an extremely negative connotation in the country due to the past uses of this practice. Yet, implementing procedures and frameworks around whistleblowing must be continued if honesty and integrity is going to become a core part of our values. In order to reach this objective, companies must have relevant, transparent and practical tools to move on from the mindset and practices that are irrelevant in an ultra-connected world where exchanges are global and exponential. Furthermore, companies must implement the best practices pursued by the market leaders in their respective sectors to optimize governance and improve employees’ daily professional lives.

Why Use a Whistleblowing Platform?

  • Reduce risks: risks can be detected and mitigated at an early stage, therefore the risk of damage to reputation, sanctions and financial penalties are minimized.
  • Increase performance: companies can evaluate of each case and consequently can optimize their compliance systems
  • Improve governance: by using a digital and reliable tool, companies can comply to the best practices of corporate governance
  • Increase employee satisfaction  removes barriers of communication to the higher levels of the company.
  • Improve company value: Ethical investors (particularly ESG investors) appreciate that risks are minimized and mitigated in a transparent and efficient way.

Complying to a new law is never easy. New procedures must be created, employees have to be trained to follow them and put in place the correct tools.

Hence, the necessity of recommendations and guidance published by the regulatory authorities, law firms or professional organizations

Concerning the tool used to receive, process and forward cases and according to law firms with which we have been in touch, the CNIL and professional organisations, we recommend the following:

  • Communicate internally (i.e. to employees) and externally (i.e. suppliers, clients etc.) on the whistleblowing system in a transparent way to explain how cases are processed and the rights that whistleblowers have.
  • Prioritise an external and secure channel which reassures the whistleblower when submitting a case (secured internet link / Hotline)
  • Give the whistleblower the option to stay anonymous when submitting the case and provide the highest level of confidentiality when known to the person processing the case.
  • Use a secure platform which allows to manage a case from start to finish (submission, processing, disseminating the information in a secure channel with notification system, two-way communication with the whistleblower through the platform).

EQS Group has global presence and is an expert in providing innovative digital solutions in the fields of compliance and Financial Communication. Our digital solution, SAFE CHANNEL, allows companies with more than 50 employees to comply with Sapin II. SAFE CHANNEL follows the guidelines published by the CNIL to receive and manage whistleblowing cases.