For most companies, the answer to the above is no: their position is that the company’s whistleblowing programme is meant for employees only and doesn’t extend to third parties. In our view, this is a mistake.
Here are the top five reasons why channel partners should be an active part of your whistleblowing programme, and be given direct access to independent, simple, app-based solutions that guarantee anonymity (where supported and allowed by law) to report issues without fear of retribution.
1. Your ecosystem
The channel partner community is part of your company ecosystem. It engages with your sales team every day and regularly works with your end-user customers. The channel partner is an active part of your brand and should not be ignored or overlooked as an active player in your whistleblowing programme.
2. Significant areas of risk
Channel partners are an obvious area of risk for most companies that distribute services and products. There are a number of reasons for this, but the clearest is that the channel partner represents your brand to your customers. It handles pricing and benefits and regularly engages with consumers. It is high risk regarding export control, corruption, price fixing, bid rigging and a raft of other contractual issues. Not giving this part of your ecosystem a confidential and protected voice would create a huge gap in your whistleblowing programme.
3. Channel pressure
It has been known for years that channel partners are often faced with enormous pressure from the vendor whose products and services they distribute. The pressure is applied by vendor sales looking to push business into the channel, book new orders, win new business in competitive situations and potentially stuff the channel with end-of-quarter products. These channel partners are under significant pressure and often their only avenue of complaint is the channel team themselves. To complain, pushback or refuse to operate in questionable activity under pressure is simply impossible to do through normal avenues. Even using a whistleblowing system is a risk if the channel partner is not protected adequately by the system or programme.
4. Difference of bargaining power
The channel partner is often a small local business, with its lifeblood and success based on the vendor and the pass through of margin. In most cases, the channel partner is highly dependent on the vendor and its practices. In these situations, and with the obvious pressure applied, special steps need to be put in place to protect the channel partner from an over-reaching channel manager. They need to be treated as a special part of the ecosystem and given all means to report issues, free from retribution.
5. Because it’s real
Having audited, investigated and interviewed executives of channel partners across the globe in over 50 countries, one message from the channel partner management is constant: ‘We are a local company. We live in this region, and we work within the communities within which we live. We don’t want to be corrupt or engage in illegal dealings. We don’t want to destroy our family name or our relationships with our friends, or tarnish the government’s view of us. The reason we paid a bribe was because we were told to do so by the vendor, and they provided us with the funds to do it. We want no part of this activity, but feel we have no choice but to oblige when it’s demanded’.
Channel partners are an amazing source of knowledge of your compliance activity. They have information, experience and direct evidence of potential wrongdoing regarding your company and its employees. If companies did a better job in extending their whistleblowing programmes to channel partners, they might find a voice that is direct, opinionated and full of interesting information that they could use to drive their compliance initiatives deeper.
Speeki’s compliance reporting solutions allow partners, suppliers, employees and even members of the community to report issues through the app or a browser for free. There is no additional charge to companies. Speeki is fully supported to hear all voices.