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Exploring Sainsbury’s Whistleblowing Policy: Lessons for Businesses

Whistleblowing is a mechanism for reporting wrongdoing by or within an organisation. By law, whistleblowers are protected as long as the concerns they report are within the public interest.
Most large organisations have their own whistleblowing policies and procedures set in place.

Sainsbury’s whistleblowing policy

Sainsburys whistleblowing policy - intelligence & risk solutions

Sainsbury’s say they expect “all colleagues, including contractors and suppliers, to perform their duties with honesty, integrity, respect, and professionalism”, and that any concerns about their core values being broken need to be voiced. The Sainsbury’s whistleblowing policy outlines what concerns can be raised, including issues such as criminal offences, health and safety risks, the company breaking the law, and the belief that someone is covering up wrongdoing.

Sainsbury’s also requires all suppliers to have a written whistleblowing policy. These policies must be signed by senior management, accessible to all workers in a way that they understand, ensure anonymity, and allow complaints to be raised at any time. Sainsbury’s say that suppliers must notify the organisation within 24 hours of any ethical trade or human rights related whistleblowing concern.

Sainsbury’s whistleblowing support for employees

Sainsbury - intelligence & risk solutions's Whistleblowing Support for employees

Sainbury’s acknowledge that people may be anxious about raising concerns, telling their employees, “If you are worried about issues like misconduct or malpractice, it can be difficult to know what to do.” However, they urge employees not to be put off by anxiety, encouraging people to still come forward.

Digital whistleblowing channels

Sainbury’s directs their employees to an external, secure digital whistleblowing channel to report concerns. Employees can report their concerns in a language of their choice using the online form, or alternatively they can write in by post, or speak to an English-speaking call agent over the phone.

Digital whistleblowing channels - intelligence & risk solutions

The digital whistleblowing channel allows employees, contractors, and suppliers to report their concerns anonymously, as well as upload any supporting documents. Once concerns have been voiced, a report is submitted to a nominated Sainsbury’s contact, who decides who will be the best person to investigate, based on the allegations made.

If a whistleblower provides their contact details, they will be kept up to date with the investigation, and they may be asked further questions in order to aid the investigation.

What can other businesses learn from Sainsbury’s whistleblowing policy?

Sainsbury’s whistleblowing policy covers everything that employees and suppliers need to know, providing clear instructions on how concerns should be raised. The provision of an external, digital whistleblowing channel also means employees can report concerns without fear of retaliation, meaning more people will feel freedom to voice potential issues, therefore helping Sainsbury’s to hold themselves accountable.

Beyond ensuring a whistleblowing policy is in place, all businesses should encourage employees to be aware of what whistleblowing entails, and how to report concerns. It is also good practice to require that suppliers also have their own whistleblowing policies.
Sainsbury’s thorough whistleblowing policy represents a good baseline for what all businesses, large and small, should aim to have in place.